When Ed Bieber was growing up on a family farm in little Lena, Wisconsin, he learned to work hard — and play hard, too. The family owned a few boats over the years, and Bieber spent countless happy hours fishing, waterskiing, and kneeboarding.
Sometimes they traveled as far as the Wisconsin Northwoods and even Canada to enjoy the outdoors. Fortunately, they also had options closer to home in rural Oconto County.
They could drive just a few miles east to Lake Michigan, or they could enjoy Kelly Lake northwest of town. Bieber’s love of water evolved through trips like this, including adventures beneath the surface.
“As I kid, I would take a mask and go underwater, holding my breath,” Bieber remembers.
His love of underwater exploring, combined with his interest in fishing, led to to him becoming known as “Ed the Diver” on social media. He now has nearly 200,000 followers across multiple platforms, and millions of people have viewed his content.
A New Social Media Star
As a young adult, Bieber didn’t never considered that he might find his calling in the water. He worked factory jobs, got married, and after his divorce, raised his son and daughter, who are now 19 and 17 years old.
A hands-on dad, Bieber frequently took his kids fishing at Stephenson Island in the Menominee River, which runs between Marinette, Wisconsin, and Menominee, Michigan. Part of fishing is losing lures, and in addition to losing their own, they often came across those lost by others.
“I kept saying, get those, they’re expensive!” he recalls with a laugh.
And so, in 2017, Bieber’s Underwater Recovery was born. It started with a cheap diving mask, swim trunks, and an old pair of gym shoes.
“I had this little bin that I would strap to my chest and fill with lures,” Bieber says. “After doing that two or three times, I thought, what if I had a boogie board? I could hook them onto the board and each other.”
One day, Bieber ran into a scuba diver who was doing the same thing. That conversation, he says, changed everything. He went to M&M Diving in Menominee and earned his Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI®) Open Water Diver certification in late 2020.
“I had been free diving,” he explains. “This (scuba diving) was safer, because I would be able to breathe if I got snagged.”
Safety is definitely a concern. While Bieber occasionally works in Lake Michigan, he spends most of his time in the Menominee River and in the Fox River near Green Bay, Wisconsin.
“Most of my diving is river diving, with current and visibility that ranges from zero to about 5 feet,” he says. “It’s kind of scary at first. You’ll turn around, and you’ll be face to face with a snapping turtle or a sturgeon. The sturgeon are 5 or 6 feet long, and you just think, whoa. They’re huge.”
Lures are attractive trophies, but they also can be reused, and many of them are in almost-new condition. Realizing their value, Bieber decided to set up a couple of canopy tents at popular fishing spots and try his hand at sales.
He also continued with recoveries, using a kayak to assist with the hauling. Before long, he was recovering iPhones and keys as well as trash, bottles, bicycles and tires, and building important relationships with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in both Wisconsin and Michigan.
To support his fledgling business, Bieber launched a website, joined all the major social media platforms, and became a regular content creator. He posted on TikTok for the first time in 2021, and a mere two years later, he has more than 125,000 followers.
“It really blew up,” he says. “I get comments from all over the world. People call me from Florida and New York, and even as far away as Chile and Argentina.”
Going Full Throttle
In 2022, Bieber traded his two-tent setup for a toy-hauler camper, and he continues to sell lures. The Fox River, he says, is better than the Menominee River for this part of his business.
“More people fish the Fox, and they lose lures from shore and from boats,” he explains. “Sometimes, I can find $2,000 worth of tackle in about an hour.”
He also enjoys doing trash pickups. Last summer in Bemidji, Minnesota, he collected tires, lures, keys, iPhones and four bicycles.
“One iPhone 11 had been in the water for two years, and I got it working,” he says. “My cousin shared a photo of it to a Bemidji Facebook group, and the owner contacted me shortly after.”
After a pause, he notes with a grin, “Some people get so excited, they want to be in my videos.”
In another memorable recovery, Bieber found stolen jewelry that had been tied into a pillowcase and thrown off a bridge. His late neighbor, Bunny Kotecki, saw his YouTube video and realized she had valuable information.
“She knew the man related to the obituaries that were with the jewelry,” Bieber says. “She had him contact me.”
In the last couple of years, he also has found a variety of expensive rods and reels, as well as a 1941 Winchester rifle.
Successful lure sales, recovery assignments, social media monetization and affiliate marketing partners have allowed Bieber to quit his day job so he can focus on making this his year-round business. It is demanding, to put it mildly.
“In addition to the diving, I’m also doing the marketing and video editing,” he says. “It takes five to six hours to edit a one-hour YouTube video. After editing and posting it, I then have to edit it down into a shorter format for Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.
“There are the hours of cutting line, scrubbing lures and adding new hooks, plus the travel time and the time I spend selling,” he continues. “It’s more like doing four jobs — from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m., seven days a week — and all my money is going back into the business. It’s full throttle.”
The Robin Hood of Fishing
Bieber is indeed a busy man, but that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing one particular passion: volunteer work. Throughout the year, he gives away hundreds of lures at shows and parades, and he makes donations at a variety of fundraisers and special events.
“People have told me that I’m the Robin Hood of fishing,” he says, chuckling.
Bieber spent this past winter catching up on his social media content. He also resumed diving, one day retrieving a jaw-dropping 106 lures in just 45 minutes in the Fox River.
“I usually dive until early December, and then I’ll start again in February,” he says. “I stay away from the ice. I have done some ice diving with friends, though. It’s recreational, but I sure would love to find stuff (while ice diving) and create new content!”
Bieber is returning to Bemidji this summer to do some cleanup work and recovery of lost items. He’s looking forward to the eight other projects he has in the works; he’s also looking forward to having his son, who is now PADI certified as well, to start helping with the business. While he’s always looking for ways to streamline his heavy workload, he says he loves what he does.
“I love fishing and selling tackle, and I love making videos,” he says. “I’m also grateful I can do my part to clean up the mess, especially the hooks and lines, which kill marine life. Sometimes I can save crawfish and mud puppies that get stuck.”
With a broad smile, he adds, “It’s cool.”
To learn more about Ed the Diver, visit edthediver.com. There, you can make a donation to support his work. Funds help pay for travel expenses, scuba gear (especially gloves, wetsuits, BCDs, and air for the tanks), trash disposal and more. You can also follow Ed on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.
Don’t miss this video of Ed in action! The low visibility of the Fox River in De Pere, Wisconsin, is no match for Ed’s resolve as he retrieves a bevy of lures, a boat motor and a number of other goodies.