BY CAPT. VAN HUBBARD – I’ll just offer some memories and share some thoughts. Mark Futch was so much more than a tarpon captain and pilot. He excelled at both – just look at his accomplishments in both fields. Winning so much was more than enough for most men. Creating the sea- plane career was even more remarkable. He came up with an idea, put it together and mastered both aircraft and business. He even took it to the movies, literally.
Mark was passionate about his tarpon and conservation. He helped perfect the Boca Grande jig and struck gold with it. But he also realized that this device was destroying the traditional fishery he inherited and loved deeply. So he made it is mission to help preserve his Pass and fishery. He helped form and steer “Save the Tarpon” to correct this problem. He fought so passionately that the PTTS sued him and several other board members. He stuck out the banning of the jig and the lengthy, ridiculous legal battles and won on all counts. He helped get this issue before people who made things happen. He put everything on the line to protect tarpon. He also fought and helped get us the tarpon tags that saved tens of thousands of our precious silver kings.
Personally, my best memory was back in 1986 when he had the lead in a Miller’s tarpon Tide tournament; with a moment to spare we cleared the buoy to slide in with a bigger fish. He smiled and quickly congratulated us; that’s a special man to do that. He was always a competitor but also a gentleman and happy for others, not selfish! Capt. Philp O’Bannon shared how much Mark helped him, like the times he needed good fish for the Bush’s trips. Mark volunteered to fly him around to locate the best spots for them.
Capt. Ned Van Deree shared a story about them king fishing in the dogleg of the Pass. Every time Ned trolled by Sitarah, Ned’s folks doubled up. Mark was not happy, but Ned offered him some gear all rigged and ready to go, with the stipulation it came back home after their trips. Everyone caught a boatload of kings, but upon their return, Mark said he was keeping the gear. Confused, Ned questioned it, but Mark offered to take him to lunch by seaplane for the help and gear. He still laughs about it.
Mark lived an awesome life. It hurts us it was cut short, but he accomplished so much. He was a good father, husband and friend to so many of us. We were robbed, but he had more personal adventures than any five of the rest of us.
His friendship with Randy Wayne White is a great example. They enjoyed a special friendship filled with adventures. Wresting snakes in the Glades, researching history books for knowledge, flying interesting people all over and making friends everywhere he went.
Mark left a huge crater in our hearts, but we also have wonderful memories to treasure and share amongst each other. We owe it to him to do this! RIP, friend.