In late May, John Mounce was fishing for crappie on Cheney Lake, 30 miles west of Wichita, Kansas, when he spotted something unusual on his sonar device. He slowed his boat, dipped his Garmin live scope into the water, and saw some structure at the bottom with a distinctive profile. He quickly realized he was looking at a Jeep.

“I happened to pick up something from my side scan, and I circled back and dropped a live scope on it,” Mounce told KWCH 12 News. “I immediately knew, 100%, that it was a Jeep…I could see the steering wheel, the shifter, the whole nine yards.”

Mounce noted the depth—16.3 feet—marked the coordinates, and took pictures of his sonar screen. He also called the local police—but not before catching the crappie that were hanging around the Jeep. “Before I called the authorities, I’m gonna let it be known,” he told KSN-TV, “I did smash the crappie on it. I caught all the fish.”

The police visited Mounce’s home to view the photos and confirm the discovery. Then, when Sedgwick County Fire Department divers had trouble finding the vehicle in the lake’s murky waters, they invited Mounce to return to the scene with his scope to help. Mounce watched through his scope as the divers hitched winch hooks to the vehicle and dragged it out of the lake. 

The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office later informed Mounce that the Jeep was stolen way back in 1990. They also told him that the severely rusted and dilapidated vehicle had been turned over to the Wichita Police Department and was now evidence in a criminal investigation.

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Cheney Lake is a reservoir on the North Fork Ninnescah River in Reno, Kingman, and Sedgwick counties and is the central attraction of Cheney State Park. It was built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and serves as the main water supply for Wichita.

Mounce said the old Jeep offered great structure for crappie in that part of the lake, and he has contacted the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to request that they replace it with something else that will hold fish.

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