The first step in your underwater journey is to define the water depth you’ll be searching. Most detectors over $150 will have a waterproof coil and cable. Get a little deeper, say to your chest and you’ll need to think about a detector with a waterproof processor. If you plan to go “all the way under” your going to get into a combination of scuba and specialty metal detecting equipment.

Read this article – Metal Detecting Rivers and Creeks to learn some strategies for searching in running water.

The below article is organized by water depth, but remember that the electronics that work for chest deep usually work for full immersion.

Types of water metal detecting

Water detecting, much like detecting for gold, is a whole new ball game. It’s like the difference between basketball and golf. In both you want to get the ball (the ring) in the bucket, but there’s a big change in the equipment and techniques that you need for success.

At the beginner level, detectorists often use their standard, land-based, detector with a mode setting for “Beach” or “Water.”

This type of hunting gets you, at most, knee deep in the water, keeping the control box dry. Then a sand scoop helps you find the target. Let’s call this “Ankle Deep Water Detecting.”

Getting a Little Deeper (pun intended) Chest Deep Metal Detecting

Here you need a waterproof detector, snorkeling gear, and possibly a wet suit. At this level, detecting techniques require a new set of hunting skills and specialized equipment. We’ll call this Chest-Deep Detecting.

Fully Submerged Metal Detecting

Scuba or skin diving, is another level of complexity, where you may be swimming under water using fins and a hand-held detector. We will call this Underwater Detecting. NOTE: Scuba diving is an even more specialized activity, but it is distinct sport in itself, and far beyond the scope of this paper. Scuba diving is not covered here, but I do mention the equipment that you need, at the end, for those who want to explore this (much more expensive) variation.

Water Depth Metal Detecting
Water Depth Metal Detecting

Ankle Deep Water Detecting

There’s not much extra equipment you’ll need for ankle deep detecting. Most coils are waterproof, and most detectors have a mode or setting or beaches. If your detector does not have a beach setting you may have to adjust the sensitivity and ground balance. Beaches, especially salt-water locations have high mineral content and ionizing salts which will affect performance.

Wading Shoes, For this type of detecting you may want to look at shoes and socks that are specifically made for wading. The thickness and durability of the footwear will depend upon the presence of rocks in the surf and the water temperature. In cold climates waterproof boots or waders may be required. There’s more on waders below.

Scoops, For sandy locations you’ll need a sand scoop. For muddy or rocky bottom water detecting you can use a shovel or digging tool, but a sand scoop may still come in handy.

A sand scoop is essential for metal detecting in shallow water. A normal shovel will be way to heavy to lift the sand, gravel and WATER. Additionally it seems like your treasure gets washed away in the water spilling off the shovel. Read even more about digging for treasure in this article. A Complete Guide to Metal Detecting Tools for Digging

If you’re hunting in salt-water conditions, you should rinse all metal parts, including zippers, with fresh water when you get home, as the salt will easily corrode your gear.

“Beach Scoops – Your first thought might be this. ‘I can just use a shovel.’ You can do this if you want, but there are specialized shovels called beach scoops that will put an ordinary shovel to shame. I can’t say enough about how important a good scoop is.” ~ Metal Detecting the Beach, by Mark Smith


Chest-Deep Metal Detecting

Deeper water detecting is going to require waterproof equipment. You’re probably going to want to get a dedicated detector for this. Some manufacturers and third-party producers provide clears covers that seal the control box for detectors that are not fully waterproof.

Dedicated Water Metal Detectors

Here’s a list of some waterproof probes and detectors, increasing in price and complexity. These listings are for popular equipment. The fact that they are included here is not an endorsement of the product. Figures 7, 8, and 9 show sample detecting equipment in different price ranges. I’d suggest, if you’re just starting out, to try a few runs with the least costly items, then move up if your enthusiasm is piqued.

Water detecting is one of the few environments where Pulse Induction (PI) metal detectors work well. They are not known for good discrimination, but most metal you find in the surf is going to be something man-made, so you’ll want to dig up all targets.

Underwater Probes for Metal Detecting

An important feature for probing underwater is a vibration mode. You’ll be slowly sweeping the probe through water that has sand kicked-up. Sound and sight are useless underwater, you’ve got to feel the find.

PROBE Model NameSmile RatingGeneral $$
RM Ricomax Pinpointer😍😍😍💲💲
PI-iking 750 and TTLife Pulse😍😍😍💲💲
AMYSPORTS😍😍😍😍💲💲💲
Wedigout Handheld😍😍😍😍💲💲💲
Garrett Pro-Pointer Hand-Held*😍😍😍😍😍💲💲💲💲
Nokta Makro Pulsedive😍😍😍😍💲💲💲💲
Quest Xpointer Scuba😍😍😍😍💲💲💲💲
Treasure Products Vibra-Tector 740*😍😍😍😍😍💲💲💲💲
Treasure Products Vibra-Quatic 320😍😍😍😍😍💲💲💲💲
* Great Value and Performance

Underwater Metal Detectors

If you want to get a “forever” metal detector take a serious look at the Minelab Excaliber II. It is a little more expensive than the general hobbyist unit, but once you learn how to effectively use this unit you’ll never look at another machine.

DETECTOR Model NameSmile Rating more is betterGeneral $$
AMYSPORTS Waterproof with 10″ Coil *😍😍😍😍💲💲
Alloson TS180 Handheld Treasure Hunter😍😍😍💲💲
Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II *😍😍😍😍😍💲💲💲
Garrett AT MAX😍😍😍😍😍💲💲💲💲
Whites TDI Beachhunter Extreme😍😍😍😍😍💲💲💲💲💲
Minelab Excaliber II *😍😍😍😍😍😍💲💲💲💲💲
* Great Value for Performance

Peripheral Metal Detecting Gear

Weight belts, A weight belt is needed when you’re in water that’s deep enough to make you float. Nylon weight belts are cheaper. Rubber ones doesn’t slip as much. Many divers like to add accessory D-rings to the belt, for attaching bags and other items.

Snorkels and face masks, A face mask with a snorkel is needed so you can see and breath underwater, even if it’s just for a few seconds. Typical gear of good quality are listed here. Figures 10 and 11 show some popular snorkel and face mask combinations.

Underwater Metal Detecting Accessories
Underwater Metal Detecting Accessories ~ Photo Credit WaterWalker on Treasurenet

Wet Suits are coverings that let water enter between you and the suit, but the fit is tight enough that there is little circulation, so the suit keeps you warm. Wet suits come in different thicknesses to accommodate water temperature. For example 2-mm thick suits are for warm water and 5-mm suits for cold water.

“I have a two piece wet suit: a 7-mm farmer john and a 7-mm neoprene shorty. This gives me 14-mm of neoprene on my upper body. I also have a neoprene hood, boots, and gloves. On warm winter days I am baking potato hot until I get into the water.”

A quote from a surf detecting book, Gold Beneath the Waves, by Jim Bouwer

Dry Suits, as the name implies, are waterproof, so air, not water, is next to your skin. Most suits now have p-valves to allow urination on long dives. See p-valve discussion here. Popular brands are Hevto, O’Neill, and Stohlquist.

Gloves come in all shapes and sizes, with waterproof and tight fitting gloves, like nitrile, which is good for maintaining dexterity. Many surf searchers like webbed gloves, as these help you navigate in water, and by waving a hand over the target area you can whisk away sand to uncover a target.

Elbow length gloves are also handy for shallow water retrieving of targets. See these examples of webbed gloves and elbow length gloves.

Waders, the long boots favored by fishermen, come in all lengths and styles. Some have built-in boots and others allow you wear shoes inside. Waders are often all you need for water detecting and they are a lot less trouble to get into and out of than a wet suit. They come in different lengths, from knee high to chest high.

Metal-Detecting-with-Waders-in-High-Water
Metal-Detecting-with-Waders-in-High-Water

Miscellaneous. Once you’re actually out in the water, you’ll find there are hundreds of little things you absolutely need for water detecting. Too many to provide a comprehensive list, but items you can find at pretty much any hardware store or sports supply store.

  • Lanyards, belt clips, retractable key lines.
  • Mesh bags for stashing finds.
  • Shark repellent.
  • Detachable shafts for your detector control box.
  • Knives, probes, and tweezers for extracting items from rocks and crevices.

Underwater Metal Detecting (Scuba)

The only difference between chest-deep detecting and underwater detecting is that you get your head wet. This requires only minor add-ons in terms of gear. You might want to add a wet suit and a weight belt as described in the previous section.

You may also want to consider the following:

  • Fins to help with swimming.
  • Head cover for warmth.
  • Shark repellent.

Be sure to use the shorter, more manageable snorkel style fins as opposed to scuba diving fins. You can often save a little by buying the face mask, snorkel, and fins in a package deal. Have fun and be safe.

Metal Detecting While Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is profoundly different from metal detecting; so much so that it may be perceived as an entirely different sport. For the sake of brevity, I want to include just a short list of the gear you’ll need. If you’re interested in this activity it may be best to consult books and references dedicated to this sport.

Scuba diving requires a training class and certification. It’s a necessary step for your safety and enjoyment.

What follows is a short list of the types of gear you will need for scuba diving metal detecting:

  • Diving masks and snorkels.
  • Fins and boots.
  • Weight belts and buoyancy compensators.
  • Tanks and spare air.
  • Oxygen regulators, octopus regulars.
  • Gauges – depth, pressure, compass.
  • Dive computer.

Clue: This will cost Thousands of dollars!

The Final Shovel Scoop

This has been just a broad view of the gear and equipment that you might need for metal detecting in the water. I’ve tried to provide links and photos to help you make choices. Don’t forget to add beach maps, tide charts and weather reports to your tool box.

Wishing you luck in all your detecting ventures.


Vince Migliore is a writer and researcher. He has written numerous magazine articles on metal detecting and three books. His latest book is “The Art and Science of Metal Detecting,” available in paperback at Amazon.