SMALL TOWNS: Marinette’s “Ed the Diver” making a difference in local rivers

Fishing old lures out of lakes helps clean up the water and the lakes' bottom
Updated: May. 4, 2023 at 6:12 PM CDT
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MARINETTE, Wis. (WBAY) - The next time you’re out fishing on one of our area’s rivers you may notice some company nearby underwater. A Marinette man has found a unique way to make a living, while helping the environment.

This week in Small Towns, we travel to the Menominee River to meet Ed the Diver.

It wasn’t deep sea gold, but something any angler can relate to, that inspired Ed Bieber to invest in some diving gear.

“I love fishing and I wanted to teach my kids how to fish too and that’s why I started diving for lures because they were losing my lures, and I was, kind of got expensive,” explains Ed.

That first time underwater six years ago, and Ed was hooked.

“I just tried it out one time and after that first time I was like, I love this, it’s easy, you just go out there and grab free lure, free lure, free lure, and I just kept doing it and I ended up getting scuba-certified and then my game really elevated,” says Ed.

Especially once he took the plunge into the world of social media.

“As a farm boy, construction worker, factory worker, learning how to edit videos and do all the social media stuff, it was tough, a lot of grinding, a lot of time editing but it’s taken off now and my channels, I’m thankful for them,” says Ed.

Known around the globe as Ed the Diver, Ed currently has nearly 120,000 followers on Tik Tok, 40,000 on Instagram, and thousands more on Facebook and YouTube.

“I’m recording with my Go Pro on my mask here and it captures a lot of stuff, it’s easy, it’s hands free, so when I’m working people just see my hands, me grabbing lures, seeing fish, it’s pretty neat,” explains Ed.

While Ed is now starting to make money through his social media platforms, most of his income is made cleaning up and re-selling the lures he finds, whether it’s from out of his trailer he parks along the Menominee River, or online.

He’s turned his home into a mini-warehouse and studio.

“That used to be the living room, and this used to be my dining room,” says Ed with a chuckle, adding, “We’ll do a live show with a big heap of line and lures, with 300 to 500 lures that we got to cut out from all this line, from rope, from sticks.”

Lures, though, are certainly not the only thing Ed comes across underwater.

A tour around his house, inside and out, is a pickers paradise.

Sometimes he’s able to locate the owner of what he finds in the river.

“I return about four or five Apple watches a year and probably about six or seven phones a year,” says Ed.

He also estimates he removes around one ton of trash from rivers and riverbanks each year.

Ed’s friend, Jason Younk, is now a fellow diver and happy to assist.

“We want to get all the junk off the bottom of the river that doesn’t belong there, and free up the snags so fishermen are not getting snagged up also, so it’s kind of doing them a service by cleaning up the snags and cleaning the environment at the same time,” says Jason.

Over the last few years, Ed has branched out beyond the Menominee River.

He also dives in the Fox, Oconto, Peshtigo and Wolf rivers, always finding a sense of freedom in his wetsuit.

“When you’re underwater, you don’t have this right here. It’s peaceful. It’s just you and God, the fish and just the water coming past you,” says Ed.

Ed’s dives netted him more than 10,000 fishing lures last year, enough for him to take a leap of faith in January and quit his day job.

“I was an underground electrician for 8½ years, and wear and tear on your body, awesome pay, great benefits, great union, but I wanted to work for myself, and I can do it, recycling out of the river, making merchandise, just going and cleaning up different things, doing recoveries. I love it, I love it,” says Ed with a smile.

Now that he’s diving full-time, Ed expects to double the number of lures he pulls from rivers each year, along with the amount of trash and treasures.