Rich Cailteux Award

The purpose of the Rich Cailteux Award is to recognize individuals who have maintained a long-term commitment to research, management, and/or conservation of Florida fisheries and aquatic resources. This award aims to honor individuals for their career contributions to the fisheries profession and enhancing the visibility of the Florida Chapter. The Rich Cailteux Award is the highest honor Florida AFS may bestow upon an individual member or collaborating group.

2023 Rich Cailteux Award

Bob Heagey (FWC)

Robert “Bob” Heagey received his degree in Fisheries and Aquaculture from the University of Florida in 1986, whereupon he promptly left to commercial fish in Rhode Island and Puerto Rico and serve as a commercial fisheries observer in Alaska. He came back to Florida though and was hired in 1991, at the then DNR Division of Marine Resources, as an OPS Biological Scientist in the Fish Biology section under Mike Murphy to conduct bycatch studies. The following year, he transferred to the Juvenile Fish Monitoring, Fisheries Statistics section under Bob McMichael. He has remained with that research division, now named Fisheries Independent Monitoring (FIM), through multiple re-organizations, various supervisors, and several promotions, where his unique skills and personality make him invaluable!

Bob serves in various roles within FIM, not the least of which is leading and participating in both inshore and offshore sampling. FIM graciously honors employees with the “OOPS Award” each year and Bob once took home the prize after launching a boat into a retention pond rather than the designated creek on the opposite side of the road. While his inshore boating skills have been in question since, his offshore skills have fared better, and he serves as lead captain for offshore sampling trips. From the Dry Tortugas to the west Florida shelf, Bob has worked it all, logging countless hours dropping cameras, mowing the lawn with the Side Scan Sonar, setting up acoustic arrays, hook-n-line fishing, and deploying chevron traps. Bob has been invaluable to the success of FIM’s offshore program.

He has also worked with boat builders to design watercraft, both inshore and offshore, conducive to FIM’s distinctive sampling methods. Many know that Bob owns a Koi, pond, and aquaria business and his skills in that arena have been particularly valuable at FWRIs annual Marine Quest public outreach event as he creates and maintains many of FIM’s display tanks. He has continued to promote both FIM and FWRI through outreach and participation in events such as the Great American Teach-in. In addition to all of this, one of Bob’s greatest strengths is his training and mentorship both within the FIM section and throughout FWRI. His training courses, including boating, trailering, and field sampling, are safety-minded before all else. As such, he was instrumental in creating the Institute’s watercraft safety program which is now required for all field operations. He has served as a mentor for countless staff, always quick to offer encouragement, lend a hand, and offer congratulations for others endeavors.

For nearly as long as Bob has been with the Institute, he has been involved with the FL Chapter AFS. At both the 1995 and 2017 National meetings, he served on the Tours, Transportation, and Information Committee. There were rumors that he went so far as to dress as a cabby to pick up VIPs at the airport in 2017, although we’ve yet to see photographic evidence. He also served as the chapter president in 2019-2020 and again in 2020-2021, guiding us through the COVID years, and is one of only three people to serve two terms as president. Possibly his most important role has been the honorary bon fire attendant, usually staying until the last person leaves and often with a hop, skip, and a jump of the flames every once in a while.

For all these reasons, and many more, it is a great honor for us to present this nomination for our dear friend and colleague, Bob Heagey. We are better for having him in our lives, and strongly believe those who have worked with him and gotten to know him are as well.