From California to Phenix City, Jake Koehler finds his way on the water

Jake Koehler takes pride in cleaning the river of its clutter and finding treasure in the process.
Jake Koehler takes pride in cleaning the river of its clutter and finding treasure in the process.

COLUMBUS, Ga. — The Chattahoochee River connects Columbus and Phenix City. Jake Koehler lives in Phenix City, but he feels right at home the closer he gets to the river. Koehler grew up in California, where he spent a lot of his time surfing.

Jake Koehler takes pride in cleaning the river of its clutter and finding treasure in the process.
Jake Koehler takes pride in cleaning the river of its clutter and finding treasure in the process.

So naturally, when he moved to the Chattahoochee Valley, he continues to ride the waves at Heaven’s Gate on the Columbus side of the river. But Jake is most comfortable underneath the waves, exploring what lies below.

“I know a lot of people probably lose some cool stuff here because everyone’s going down in the rafts,” Koehler told News 3. “So I started swimming around and I started documenting the cliffs and sharing the footage on YouTube. I started getting a little bit of an audience and now I’m out here everyday looking for treasure, and it’s so much fun.”

Koehler’s tools of the trade are a face mask and snorkel, fins, a pair of scissors and a couple of go-pro cameras. They capture his underwater adventures. Koehler has found a whole tackle box full of lures, sunglasses, and cell phones.

“Just this past season where all the hybrids and stripes came up, I came out here and the first day I swam I found hundreds of lures,” Koehler’s said. “I must have found over 300. Lately I’ve been finding a couple of Go Pros. I found a gold ring last year. That’s about the best stuff I’ve found so far.”

When Koehler comes across junk cluttering up the riverbed, he makes a special effort to yank it out of the water and throw it away.

“I’m just trying to make it a safer place and I’m having a lot of fun just getting all these treasures, you know,” Koehler said.

Besides the man-made treasures, Koehler also finds a wonderful world of underwater creatures. From time to time, Koehler will run across a fish that still has a hook and fishing line in its mouth. He’s careful to remove the hook and release the fish back in to the river.

“You see a lot of catfish, striped bass, hybrids, spotted bass, a lot of different kind of bass, some chad,” Koehler said. “Most people think swimming in the river is just creepy. But it’s honestly really beautiful underneath. You’ll see some big turtles. I’m a little stressed out about some of those big turtles. They might get me. I’m always out there barefoot and I don’t want my little toes to get chopped off. But it’s a lot of fun seeing all that stuff out there.”

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