Welcome to Creators Going Pro, where in partnership with Semaphore — a creator-focused family of companies providing business and financial services to social media professionals — we profile professional YouTube stars who have hit it big by doing what they love. Each week, we’ll chat with a creator about the business side of their channel, including identifying their Semaphore Moment — the moment they truly went pro.
Jake Koehler — aka Dallmyd — is most at home when he’s outfitted in dive gear, combing the murky bottom of the Chattahoochee River. He’s a lifetime fan of hanging out around the water, whether we’re talking lakes, rivers, or even oceans, but it wasn’t till 2015 that he started to wonder what lay beyond the surface of his favorite fishing spots. He suited up and went exploring, and to his surprise, scattered along the bottom of the Chattahoochee were hundreds of lost items, some of them significantly valuable (think jewelry, iPhones, GoPros, and much, much more).
He was instantly hooked. Since then, he’s documented his finds on YouTube, attracting 7.4 million subscribers and between 20 and 50 million views per month.
Koehler’s viewership really took off in 2018, when he found a potential murder weapon in a shallow Chattahoochee canal (video below). He and a friend documented their adventure finding the gun and reporting it to police — complete with ride in the back of a squad car — and the video went viral, bringing in 10 million views. His channel immediately shot from bringing in around 10 million views per month to bringing in up to 50 million.
Koehler loves what he does just for the sheer doing it, but his efforts are also philanthropic. He returns as many items as he can to their owners (like this guy, who flew his top-of-the-line drone into a line and luckily had it retrieved by Koehler). And not all the items he picks up are cool: he also cleans up trash from his dive locations in an effort to aid waterways and their local wildlife.
Ultimately, Koehler hopes documenting his adventures on YouTube will inspire his millions of viewers to try diving and discovery for themselves. But even if they don’t, he’ll be there to give them an in-depth look at what treasures the rivers right in their own backyards could be hiding.
Check out our chat with him below.
Tubefilter: So, let’s jump right in (er, no pun intended). Tell us a little about you. Where are you from? How did you get into diving–and, even more interestingly, how did you get into treasure hunting?
Jake Koehler: My name is Jake Koehler. I currently live in Columbus, Ga., near the Chattahoochee River. Growing up, my father was in the military, so we moved around a lot and got to live all around the country. However, I have spent most of my time in California and Georgia, so I consider these places my hometowns.
Growing up in California, I developed a passion for the ocean, and I surfed and swam every day. After I graduated from Huntington Beach High School in California, we moved to Alabama to reconnect with our close family. After moving to the South, I started to enjoy fishing and exploring the Chattahoochee River for the best fishing spots. However, I didn’t have a boat, so I had to be creative by making do with whatever I had to get across the river and onto the various small islands for the best fishing locations. I would even swim across the river with all my fishing gear or use my surfboard to paddle myself across to a good fishing spot. I never let not having something such as a boat hold me back from enjoying my time on the water. After a few months of swimming or paddling across the river, I decided to bring a pair of goggles to take a look at was beneath the river, and I was absolutely amazed at what I saw.
Tubefilter: What gave you the idea to film your adventures? What made you choose YouTube as the place to share those videos?
JK: When I took my first look beneath the Chattahoochee River, I saw hundreds of lost fishing lures, GoPros, and iPhones that had all sunk to the bottom of the riverbed and had been forgotten. Knowing all this lost gear was just sitting at the bottom of the river, I was eager to clean up the trash and find all the best treasure. I wanted to share these adventures on a platform that would make a difference — and what better platform than YouTube, since it is very accessible to people all around the world.
Tubefilter: When did you notice your videos pulling in a large audience, and how did you grow that audience? Do you have a content strategy?
JK: I noticed a significant change in subscribers when I found a gun in the Chattahoochee River and uploaded my experience of handing the weapon over to the police. I’d say this was a life changing moment for my YouTube career. Strategy-wise, I acknowledged this new wave of hype and started sharing more underwater treasure hunts as frequently as possible.
Tubefilter: When did you get your first check for online video revenue? How much was it for?
JK: I started my YouTube channel in 2011. The first videos I shared were gaming videos, but my YouTube channel never took off until I started sharing treasure hunting videos in 2015. With that said, I never made a lot of money while creating gaming videos. However, now I’m able to support myself just with the revenue I earn on YouTube.
Tubefilter: How do you choose locations for dives and treasure hunts? Are you ever out looking for specific items, or are you focused on finding whatever you come across?
JK: I choose specific dive locations based on the water conditions and the popularity of the location. The popularity of the location is important; I want to visit high-traffic spots so I increase my chances of finding lost valuables. In fact, I got really lucky, because the section of the Chattahoochee River I frequent is actually the world’s largest urban whitewater course. Hundreds of thousands of people go rafting, kayaking, and tubing every year at this spot, and people always lose expensive things.
Sometimes I get strategic with what I look for, such as specifically looking for guns, phones, or GoPros. For example, if I want to find a gun, I’ll search in specific locations that might increase my chances of finding a weapon, such as secluded areas under a bridge. However, I usually just head out in a location I think could have river treasure and hope to find anything good.
Tubefilter: What was that Semaphore Moment for you—the first time you realized you were a professional YouTuber?
JK: The moment I realized YouTube was my full-time job was when I started creating treasure hunting videos. I created my first river treasure hunting video in 2015, and from that date on, I tried my best to build on the hype by posting new videos as frequently as possible and going on bigger and better adventures. My YouTube experience was surreal after those first few treasure hunting videos. It was life-changing, because I started having people recognize me in real life and tell me how much they enjoyed my content, which was a very validating experience. Like I said before, when I found my first gun, it changed my life, and I was fortunate enough to be able to build on the success from that video.
Tubefilter: What effect has YouTube had on your overall career? Have your YouTube videos sparked any professional opportunities off the platform? What about brand deals?
JK: Creating YouTube videos is my full-time job. With the help from my network, Fullscreen, we have had a handful of great brand deals. River treasure hunting has also opened new doors in the television world. I can’t speak on this too much at the moment, but I can tell you guys that I’m super excited about future possibilities.
Tubefilter: What’s your production schedule like? Do you have a set filming and uploading schedule?
JK: My production schedule is honestly all over the place. I have to plan my videos around weather, sunlight, and water levels. I create the majority of my videos in the Chattahoochee River. The section of the river that I explore is controlled by a hydroelectric dam that generates power to the surrounding areas. Depending on the city’s energy needs, the power company will release water through the dam, which will cause downstream water levels to rise. Every day, the water levels vary from low-flow to high-flow conditions. Since this area is also the world’s largest urban whitewater rafting course, it can be very dangerous, because high-flow conditions create challenging rapids. I have to keep a good eye on water levels every day, or I can catch myself going down those rapids!
Tubefilter: Do you have a per-video budget for your channel, or an overall channel budget?
JK: I don’t have a per-video budget for my YouTube channel. However, my goal is always to earn more money on each trip than to lose money. Ever since I started creating YouTube videos, I apply the money I have earned to better my equipment or to go on more trips. I always try to end each trip with a net gain money-wise.
Tubefilter: What else do you get up to in your daily life?
JK: On my off time, you can catch me surfing, jet skiing, or relaxing on the river.
Tubefilter: Do you have anyone working with you behind the camera? What about a manager or network?
JK: I usually film and edit all my videos by myself. However, I just hired a videographer and friend of mine to help record third-person shots while filming beautiful scenes underwater. I have a manager named Michael Gordon from Fullscreen who helps organize brand deals and is also the man to go to if I ever need help.
I have two friends I always team up with on treasure hunts, and their names are Brandon Jordon (Jiggin’ with Jordon) and Tristan Yaptengco (Yappy Twan Twan). My family members are also huge supporters of my channel. My mother works for me by handling all my financial affairs, but both of my parents, my three siblings, and my girlfriend are always there to give me helpful advice and video ideas.
Tubefilter: What do you think is the most vital skill you possess as a creator?
JK: I think the most vital skill I possess as a creator is the drive and interest I have in not only finding treasure, but also doing my best in cleaning up the environment and returning lost valuables back to their rightful owners. I honestly love what I do, and I can’t believe it’s my full-time job. In fact, the activities I do for work are the same types of activities I would do in my spare time if I had a typical job. It’s definitely my dream job. If I won the lottery, I’d do the exact thing I’m doing here on YouTube…but maybe with a few new toys, haha.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you and your channel? What are you building toward?
JK: What’s next for my channel is to continue growing and to keep pushing to surpass 10 million subscribers. I also want to continue to try my best to encourage others to go on treasure hunts, new adventures, and do their part in cleaning up the environment.
Koehler is a Fullscreen client.
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