A man took his 11-year-old grandson fishing in a South Miami-Dade canal last weekend. But he wasn’t using the typical squiggly bait on a hook. Nor were they looking for food.
Duane Smith saw a YouTube video about magnet fishing and thought it would be a fun family activity for the two to try. So Grandpa and Grandson prepared a line with a 5-pound magnet and dropped it into the C-102 Canal in Princeton.
They hoped to see what they could pull up from the bottom. Metal scraps maybe. Or maybe something valuable. The magnet could pull up as much as 2,600 pounds of material.
Their catch of the day?
Two .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifles.
“We ended up with two pounds of scrap and 40 pounds of gun,” Smith said.
If you’ve never heard of magnet fishing, it speaks for itself. You connect a heavy magnet to a rope, throw it into the water and see what you find at the bottom. Amazon sells a magnet fishing kit, complete with rope and gloves, for about $30.
On Sunday, Smith and his grandson, Allen Cadwalader, tried their luck on the C-102 – one of the many freshwater canals along the roads and tree nurseries in South Miami-Dade. From a bridge, Smith threw in the magnetic line and Allen helped pull it up.
After five minutes they got their big one. One of the guns.
“I thought, since it was our first time, this was beginners luck,” Smith said.
But when he threw the magnet back in, they pulled up another catch. An identical sniper rifle.
The guns were not loaded and they found no ammunition.
“The Barretts had so much mass,” Smith said. “The magnet went straight to them.”
Smith and his grandson found the lower receivers of the guns—that is, most of the gun except for the barrel. The Barrett .50 caliber rifle is a semi-automatic weapon with chambers to fire a large bullet designed for the M2 Browning heavy machine gun.
The South Miami-Dade man said he was concerned that the serial numbers on the lower receivers of the guns and the latch of one of the guns had been filed off.
“Whoever did this is not your common criminal,” said Smith, a 61-year-old former Army infantry officer.
Smith called the Miami-Dade County Police Department, who dispatched two officers to retrieve the weapons.
Police Detective Christopher Thomas looked at the photo Smith took of his grandson with the guns. He said Monday it will likely be some time before the department can determine whether the weapons were used in a crime.
Judging by the photo, they’ve been there for a while. That said, it will be some time before the weapons make it to our forensics lab. Once there, they will be processed,” he said.
Smith is not convinced that the guns have been in the water for long. They were wrapped in plastic and after about 30 minutes he was able to scrape off most of the corrosion.
“It looked like it was something someone would want to come back for.”