Big find for pro metal detector: hundreds of smart watches

Port Barrington metal detectorist dives and digs to recover lost treasures

Darick Langos uses his metal detector to search the Fox River

A word of advice to Apple Watch owners who spend time on the Chain O’ Lakes: Get a better strap for the device than what comes with it.

While diving with his metal detector, Darick Langos has collected about 200 of the smart watches from the water. Nearly all had the original watch band attached.

Apple watches found by Darick Langos with his metal detector on land or while diving in the Fox River or lakes.

“The ones with the sports bands ... they do not stay on in the water,” Langos said.

Langos, 25, of Port Barrington, also has found dozens of smartphones and hundreds of rings and other jewelry in his years diving in the Chain O’ Lakes and on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, where his parents have a vacation home.

He’s built those two passions – scuba diving and metal detecting – into a business, Scuba Bear Diving Recovery Service. For a fee and depending on what was lost and where, Langos will search for lost property.

“It is a good paying gig, but super niche,” Langos said, adding, “I am the cheapest guy I know of. I don’t charge if I can’t find it.”

While his base rate is variable, depending on where the item is and how far underwater it might be, “I don’t want to sticker shock people with my prices,” he said.

Langos started the two hobbies young, getting scuba certification at age 10 and his first metal detector at age 11. That first detector model was a “1970s from grandpa that didn’t do anything compared to the models they have now.”

The model he now uses will detect metal under 50 feet of water. “That was a game changer for me,” Langos said.

Darick Langos with some of the hundreds of items he has found with his metal detector on land or while diving in the Fox River or lakes.

He doesn’t go treasure hunting only when he gets a call. Langos also goes out on his own. He’s never sold anything he’s found on the excursions and now has the collection of cellphones, smart watches, rings, earrings, a few hunting knives and an assortment of mostly rusted guns that have been cleared by police.

“I haven’t sold anything, including a white gold Cartier ring, unless I get it back to the owner,” he said.

As far as the Apple Watches go, most still take a charge, but because they are locked it’s difficult to get it back to an owner. If he can send a “call this number” message to the watch that forwards to a cellphone, then he has been able to return it. Cellphone companies have mostly shown disinterest in getting the device back to owners.

Langos is upfront about his capacity at finding items lost in the lake, Langos said. If the owner is 99% certain of where the lost property may be, he can go look for it. If the property is “somewhere out in the middle of the lake” he’s less likely to find it.

One of his biggest search requests has been for prescription glasses. “They can be insanely expensive, $800 for prescription glasses. I am able to find it in less than a minute” if given a good location, Langos said.

Metal detecting as a hobby had an uptick in popularity during the pandemic, with people picking up detectors for something to do outdoors. Langos advises people who think they’d like to try going out themselves start with a less-expensive model.

That is the same advice from Ron Shore, owner of Chicago’s Windy City Metal Detectors. He’s been a metal detector retailer since 1985.

Interest in metal detecting “has been pretty steady,” Shore said, but it did see an increase during COVID-19 and when gold and silver prices go up. The equipment also has improved significantly in the past few years.

Machines can be bought online, but those detectors can also be frustrating if they are too advanced for a new user, Shore said. “I tell them to not buy top of the line. See if you enjoy the hobby. You don’t want a $1,000 detector that sits in the closet.”

People think it’s neat to see his three large jars of wheat pennies he’s collected, Shore said. For each one of them, he had to get down on his knees and dig to find out what the machine had found.

He also warns that the YouTube videos of searchers finding gold rings likely is a small percentage of what the person actually digs for. “You only see them dig for the good stuff. I have a case here ... with a ton of junk” that been dug up. “That is just part of the game.”

Rings found by Darick Langos with his metal detector on land or while diving in the Fox River or lakes.

Shore will refer calls to Langos for people looking for their lost property or when a dive is needed for the search.

“I am close to 80 now. I don’t detect as much as I used to,” Shore said. “On the plus side, there is no other hobby that will pay for itself when you use it, with the cost of gold today.”

Even at those prices, Langos does not intend to start selling the jewelry he’s found. He has a few pieces he’d like to get back to the owner, such as a large class ring from Missouri. He’s reached out online to a man with a matching name but hasn’t heard back.

Langos has a few spots on McHenry County’s lakes he searches regularly. “I find a lot of coins and garbage. It can be a needle in a haystack” when he does have a search request locally. “People throw their garbage in the water and it is all bottle caps and beer cans.”