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Metal Detecting in Water

Updated on February 6, 2012

I have a lot of hobbies, I mean a lot. But, the one hobby that occupies the majority of my time is metal detecting. Metal detecting is a fun time for my whole family. My wife joins me and my children love to find “treasure.” I’ve been involved in this hobby for several years now and it’s been rewarding in many ways, including financially.

There are several facets of metal detecting. All of them specialize in a certain style of hunting geared toward finding certain things. Examples include: coin shooting, gold prospecting, relic hunting, beach hunting and water hunting. This article is about hunting in the water, primarily salt water. It is not a basic metal detecting article, but the basics can be summed up as: know your machine, swing low and slow, and dig every good signal.

The water is probably the best source of high value items in metal detecting. In the years I’ve been hunting I’ve found my most valuable items in the water. I’ve found enough to upgrade my equipment and have plenty left over. Jewelry is the big thing in the water. I’ve found rings, bracelets, watches, necklaces, etc. If you know a popular beach in your area, chances are it’s been popular for a long time. There will be countless lost items in the sand under the water.

Water hunting itself has a number of methods such as scuba, snorkeling, hooka diving, and wading. I’m going to talk about wading, since it is the most accessible way to hunt in the water.


The first thing you need is a metal detector. Not just any kind of metal detector, you need a waterproof Pulse Induction (PI) detector. Waterproof because it’s very easy to fry a detector’s electronics, and PI because it will not pick up the mineralization of the sand.

There are several different detectors that fit this description. They range from two hundred to thousands of dollars. Research is you friend here. Read the reviews and you’ll do fine. If you want my recommendation, it’s down on the bottom of the page. I also put my recommendation for an intro land machine there too.

The next thing you need is a long handled sand scoop. These kind of look like perforated coffee cans with a long handle attached to them. They are all metal, and you want something pretty sturdy. They cost about fifty to a hundred dollars.

If you are living in a temperate area you may want to pick up some neoprene waders. I live in a sunshine state, so I wade in shorts and sandals.

Last, you need some kind of pouch to store your finds. I use a small mesh bag and attach the drawstring to a belt loop.

How to hunt:

Metal is heavy. It wants to settle comfortably in sand and sink. However it has the currents to contend with. This is what you need to know in order to successfully hunt in the water. Because metal sinks in sand it tends to settle until it hits firmer ground. When this happens, the currents are your friend; they constantly shift the sand around, tons of it at a time. The currents will cover and uncover this firmer ground all of the time.

So what does that mean? It means you need to recognize when and where on the beach there are “cuts” in the softer sand and the firmer bottom is exposed. Until you can do this, water hunting with a metal detector is basically a crap-shoot. Fortunately, most of these cuts are pretty easy to spot. Just walk the beach around a low tide until you see an area that is obviously lower than the rest. Or, if you really want to see what they look like, go to the beach right after a storm. There will be clearly defined cuts all over the place.

When you find a cut start working it in a grid pattern and cover every inch. Start at the waterline and go out only as far as you are comfortable. If the waves are too challenging to get a good swing, or dig properly, then go shallower. With practice you can actually go almost neck deep and still be able to find and recover objects.


Unlike hunting on the dry part of the beach, or on land in general, water hunting can be physically taxing. It is not the leisurely way to spend an afternoon. You will actually be quite worn out.

You’ll find lots and lots and lots of garbage metal out there. Don’t get frustrated by this. It is part of the hobby, probably the bulk of it. Just put it in your bag and throw it away. Think of it this way: whatever you don’t carry out with you can find its way into someone’s foot, probably a kid’s. So do your part to keep the beach clean.

Be courteous to the beachgoers. It only takes one bad apple to ruin a beach for metal detecting. You’ll get a lot of curiosity thrown you way. People love to see what you found. Show them the scrap metal and let them know you’re helping to keep them safe.

Dreary days are your friend. When the weather isn’t good for beachgoers you’ll have the beach to yourself.

Low tide is your friend too. If your area has high plus or minus tides, a good low tide can expose some great finds.

Good luck! And happy hunting!

Items I can definitely recommend


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