It’s a fishing cliché: A grandfather takes his grandson angling for the first time and within five minutes, they land a catch beyond their wildest dreams. Well, this tale of beginner’s luck has an unbelievable twist: While magnet fishing, an 11-year-old and his grandpa pulled up a pair of high-end sniper rifles carefully wrapped in plastic with their serial numbers filed off. Their find has launched a police investigation.
Duane Smith, a 61-year-old retired infantry officer who lives in South Florida, decided to try magnet fishing after watching YouTube videos about the sport, which involves tying a heavy magnet to a line and dropping it into the water to see what you find. According to the Miami Herald, Smith and his grandson, Allen Cadwalader, were using a pretty basic rig—a rope with a 5-pound magnet capable of pulling 2,600 pounds. They lowered it from a bridge into the C-102 canal in Princeton, Florida, on January 30.
Within minutes they had something heavy on the line. It turned out to be a .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle wrapped in shrink wrap. Incredibly, a second cast turned up another rifle that was identical to the first one. “The Barretts had so much mass,” Smith told the Miami Herald. “The magnet went straight to them.”
As a U.S. Army veteran trained in the use of sniper rifles, Smith recognized the weapons as military-grade and estimated their value at $20,000. He believes they could have been in the canal for up to a year based on the condition they were in. After taking the weapons home, he was able to scrape away most of the corrosion on the guns in 30 minutes—that’s when he discovered that the serial numbers on the lower receivers of both rifles and the bolt on one of the rifles had been filed off. He turned the weapons over to the Miami-Dade County Police Department, which will examine the Barretts in their forensics lab in an attempt to determine if they were used in a crime.
“[Magnet fishing] is kind of like a gambling addiction where you don’t know what the next pull of the slot machine is gonna be,” Smith told CNN. He thought the high success rate might make it a more engaging activity than regular fishing for his grandson, who has autism. “With magnet fishing, every time I cast out or every other time, I’m coming up with something. A bottle cap or you know, $7,000 sniper rifle.”