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Magnet fisher attracts lost Fairbanks treasure

Published: Dec. 5, 2020 at 5:20 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -For Jonathan “Johnny” Johnson, overcoming cancer in November of 2019 meant finding a new hobby.

“Four hours into chemo and I kind of ran out of stuff to watch. So I started watching magnet fishing,” Johnson said.

Johnson was hooked.

“I saw how much stuff that they were pulling out of the water down in the states, and I looked here and there is nobody doing it here!” he said.

Johnson ordered his first magnet and has been seen fishing from bridges and sloughs around the interior.

“I’m no historian and professional blacksmith, but I’d say 40 or 50 years at least he has been there,” Johnson said holding up an old pickaxe he found magnet fishing off the Steese Bridge.

From shopping carts, to hammers, a few golf clubs, old pipes and countless railroad spikes, Johnson has been busy cleaning out the rivers and sloughs.

He even turned several guns he found over to law enforcement.

Jonathan Johnson has found several guns while magnet fishing and turned them over to the...
Jonathan Johnson has found several guns while magnet fishing and turned them over to the Fairbanks Police Department and the Alaska State Troopers.(Sarah Hollister)

But his most treasured find was when his magnet stuck onto a street sign, deep in the mud below the Steese Bridge - a sign that said Irene’s Way.

For Johnson, finding the sign was like a trip down memory lane. He said he believes it belonged to a Fairbanks Pioneer, Irene Sherman, who died in 1995.

Jonathan Johnson pulled this sign out from under the Steese Bridge. He believes it belonged to...
Jonathan Johnson pulled this sign out from under the Steese Bridge. He believes it belonged to Irene Sherman, a pioneer of Fairbanks who died in 1995.(Sarah Hollister)

“Growing up here, we’d see her everywhere, she was a great lady. We always hung out down here and she never liked it when kids would play next to the water, like at the dock over here,” Johnson said.

As for what’s next? Johnson said he’s ready to take things easier and have a little more free time.

“I want to clean up the water! I’m not making any money, but the joy and the journey of life... I’m trying to have a little more fun,” he chuckled.

If you want to see more of the interesting finds Johnson has pulled from the waters of Fairbanks, you can visit his YouTube page called “Alaskans on the Fly.”

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