There was treasure to be found in the waters of the Florida Keys, in the form of a lost money clip

This is another true story of treasure hunting in the Florida Keys. I know it’s not as spectacular as the Atocha find, but to my friend it was a happy reunion worthy of a celebration.

Friends of mine were visiting from Illinois. They run a horse stable up there. They would come to the Florida Keys twice each year. In the fall they would rent a house that’s just down the street from where I live. They would stay here for a month each time. So we would spend lots of time together.

It was in the afternoon when they returned from applying for a loan for the property they were purchasing on Cudjoe Key. The day was sunny and warm, so they decided to go fishing. It was early November and the days are getting shorter. To save some time they didn’t even change into their pre-blood-stained fishing clothes. Off they went.

Bill and me before dive


I was out roller blading. When I returned home, I had two disparate messages from Bill and Kay. They phoned from their boat. They were asking me if I would go diving for Bills lost money clip. Their message was pleading with me to be home and to go diving for the money clip now. This began the treasure hunt.

It was way too late in the day when they got back to the dock. I didn’t intend to go diving as the sun was setting, treasure or not.

We had dinner that night and made our plans for a treasure hunt the next day. At dinner Bill told me the story of this money clip and why it is so important to him. An older gentleman had made this clip for Bill many years ago. It was made from silver, gold and bronze. The front of the clip had Bill’s initials on it. It had lots of sentimental value to him. The old gentleman had passed on.

me before treasure hunt

Their story was that they had been fishing for yellowtail snapper. They had gone out to Looe Key Reef and hooked up to the last mooring buoy to the west. You’re allowed to hook and line fish in this area. They were catching small yellowtail and releasing them. Bill would remove the hook from the fish Kay would catch. Each time after this he would put the pliers in his pocket. Remember they left late. He hadn’t bothered sliding the case for the pliers onto his belt because it was his fancy belt. Another fish came in, Bill reached into his pocket pulled out the pliers and the money clip came out with them. The money clip proceeded to fall into the water. Bill watched it as it fell all the way to the bottom. I asked him was he sure a Barracuda hadn’t snatched it on the way down. He said he was sure it hadn’t, that he had seen it fall to the bottom.

On this day the winds were light and gentle from the southeast. The water was crystal clear and calm. The next day when we went out a cold front had come thru and the winds had turned to the northwest, it was blowing 10-15 mph and the water was choppy.

When we get to the reef we see only one boat in the area. He’s tied up to the mooring buoy we need to dive on. Knowing that it’s uncomfortable to fish when it’s choppy like this we hang back from this guy and wait to see if he’ll leave soon. Sure enough, about 10 minutes pass and he’s out of there.

Bill in water

We grab the buoy. First thing I do is sit there and study how we’re laying off the buoy with today’s conditions. I notice how much the buoy is being pulled because of the winds and current. Then I try and imagine where the boat would have hung the day before with the light southeast winds. I’ve got my treasure hunt plan. It’s time to suit up.

We’re going to scuba dive for the money clip and it’s treasure. We’re in 47 feet of water. I get all that gear on and am ready to go overboard. Bill’s not ready. He’s still getting his stuff on. At this moment he reminds me of the triple bypass he had a couple of years ago. Said his doctor hasn’t cleared him to dive yet. Great! He’s going to die on me. He insists on going with me. He really wants this money clip back.

I jump in, and I’m waiting and waiting for him to join me. I use up 500 pounds of air while waiting near the surface. Finally I just go for it. I go over to the mooring buoy and swim down the line. I’m working from my treasure hunt plan as to where the boat is now and where it would have been yesterday. The formation here is spur and groove. This means there’s a sandy area between raised areas of corals and sponges. They lay kinda southeast to northwest like fingers in the sand.

Showing off money clip

My treasure hunt plan takes me to the area where I find broken off pieces of monofilament hung on the corals and sponge. I know this would be the area of the reef where their boat would have been near yesterday. I begin working my way east then west where this monofilament is. I’m working a grid. All successful treasure hunts need to be searched using a grid pattern. You can learn more about how to treasure hunt in this great book. I have to swim up and over each of the spurs. I need to look carefully into each crevice and sponge to see if the money clip is in them.

I see Bill in the distance. He finally made it. I continue my pattern swimming up and over and then in the sand. I come up to the next spur and laying there in the sand is the treasure. Bill’s money clip with money in it. It took me about 20 minutes of searching to find it. I’m so happy.

First I think about not letting him know I’ve found it. I’ll wait until we get back onto the boat and surprise him. I go with this plan for about 10 minutes. Then I decide to let him in on the find. I don’t want him to be frustrated. I swim above him where he doesn’t see me, then I get really close above him and have the money clip in my hand and stick it in front of his mask. He doesn’t get excited. He just nods at me, and keeps on swimming. We stay down a while longer until our air gets low and then go to the surface.



The Mutton Snapper Kay’s all excited to see us. No doubt she’s been worried about Bill’s physical ability to dive. I let her know I found the money clip. She gets really excited. I asked him why he didn’t react when I showed him the money clip, he said he knew I'd find it. Sorry, but I wasn’t that sure about this deal. It’s a big ocean.

I had taken a couple of my trolling rods along with my artificial lures. Don’t ever pass up a chance to fish . We trolled on the way back to the dock. This is a good time of the year to troll across Hawk Channel. I figure we might catch a grouper or a kingfish. Sure enough about half way to the house we hook a 10 pound mutton snapper. They’re such a pretty pink fish and great eating too.

That night we celebrate the successful treasure hunt. The money clip is back with Bill and we toast the find over dinner which just happens to be the mutton snapper we caught on the way in. We ended up with two treasures from the waters of the Florida Keys this day.



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