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Treasure Hunting Family Strikes Gold Off Florida Coast

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- After years of searching, a family of Florida treasure hunters have finally struck gold, literally!

The crew of 'Aarrr Booty' discovered a million dollars in gold and other artifacts off the coast of Florida.

The treasure is from a fleet of Spanish ships that sank 300 years ago this week, known as the 1715 Plate Fleet.

Capt. Eric Schmitt, his wife Lindsay, his parents and his sister were working on their family dive boat, when the treasure was found in 15 feet of water off the coast of Fort Pierce.

"It's definitely a passion," said Capt. Eric Schmitt. "You have to want to do this."

For the Schmitts, treasure hunting is the family business and right now, business is good.

"There are good times and there are bad times and this is definitely one of our good times," said Schmitt. "Mostly what we find is garbage on a daily basis, beer cans and lead sinkers and bullets."

But on a recent dive, they hit the jackpot.

Their team scooped up nearly 60 gold artifacts including one "Tricentennial Royal" coin minted in 1715, the year of the wreck. The rare coin is valued at $500,000.

"Those are things you dream of, of finding a royal coin, finding a presentation piece and there are people who have been doing this for 40 or 50 years that have never found one," said Schmitt.

Schmitt's team uses a "prop wash deflector" during their treasure hunts.

Large aluminum tubes are placed over the boat's propellers in order to direct the thrust of the engines toward the sea bottom. The crew focuses on an area 1000 feet off shore. The deflector is lowered into 10 to 15 feet of water clearing away 5 to 10 feet of sand, layer by layer, to reveal what's underneath.

"Things are untouched," explained Schmitt. "You find things the way they were 300 years ago when they went down."

In video provided by 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels, LLC, Schmitt can be seen underwater combing the bottom and then brushing away the sand to find gold at his fingertips.

"The more we do this, the bigger the finds we make so I kind of less believe in luck and more believe in our hard work."

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