DESTIN — Crab Island business owner and Fort Walton Beach resident Mike DePass, or "Crab Island Mike" as many know him, passed away Tuesday. He was 53.

Bill Avery, owner of Fokker's Pub in Fort Walton Beach, said DePass was his close friend. Avery said he met DePass in early 2006 when they both were beginning their businesses.

"We became close friends almost immediately," Avery said. "Mike was the kind of guy that was always there. He always supported me, and I supported him. I will never have another friend like him."

He was a fixture on his floating restaurant, moored at the submerged sandbar just north of the East Pass that is a popular congregation spot during the summer.

Many family, friends, Crab Island regulars — and even those who only knew him for his famous Crab Island burgers — remembered Depass on Facebook and the enjoyment he brought to the Crab Island experience. Many posted about missing his regular Crab Island weather reports.

"Crab Island will never be the same without you," one person wrote.

DePass, the owner of Crab Island Online, began seeking business opportunities at Crab Island in 2003. It wasn't until 2012 when he opened Crab Island Burgers, serving up hamburgers, hot dogs and daiquiris to boaters.

DePass also built a 40-foot floating stage and invited local bands to play there.

Dusty Sanderson, whose band played several times at Crab Island, said he and his band mates enjoyed many memories with DePass over the years.

"He was an incredible person," Sanderson said in a Facebook message. "Every time we would go play he treated us like family. He was one of those guys that you feel like you’ve know for years the first time you meet him."

Pittsburgh Puskarich said DePass was the first guy he met when he moved to this area 10 years ago. The news of DePass' death came as a shock to Puskarich.

"This wasn’t something any of us expected," he said. "He meant so much to this area.

"He cared about Crab Island … people look at (Crab Island) as a party place, but it’s a good place to make friends."

Avery said the future of Crab Island Burgers is unknown at this time and rests in the hands of DePass' family.

"Mike DePass will be missed, but never forgotten," Avery said.