Dania Beach – Here's a word association game.
I say Florida's world-class fishing destinations. You might say... Destin, Islamorada and Okeechobee.
Well, add Dania Beach to the list. This tiny city on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale is home to the International Game Fish Association, which keeps the legendary book of World Record Game Fishes.
The "Bible of Sportfishing," as some call it, contains approximately 7,000 records, including categories for fly rod, women and youth.
But the IGFA's $32 million headquarters has much more than books to keep traveling fishermen occupied. The organization's museum and "hall of fame" is a must-see for every angler, regardless of experience or skill level. Non-fishermen will like it too.
First, A Little Background...
Approximately 60 million Americans fish recreationally, generating more than $45 billion in retail sales each year. This translates to a $125 billion impact on the nation's economy and jobs for more than 1 million people. In other words, fishing is big business, especially here in Florida, "The Fishing Capital of the World."
While the IGFA is best known for keeping the all-tackle and line-class records for nearly 170 species of game fish, this not-for-profit organization has been a driving force in education, promoting such initiatives as catch-and-release and angling ethics.
Visitors to the IGFA's Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum can see life-size models of record catches. The mounts, dangling from the ceiling, serve as reminders that there are more than kingfish, tarpon and snook to catch in the world's oceans.
An interactive area teaches about fish adaptations by letting visitors make fins move, feel the texture of scales or compare their own senses with those of a fish.
Floor markers guide visitors through fresh, brackish and saltwater environments. The gallery also features Streams and Rivers, Ponds and Lakes, Estuaries and Flats, Coastlines and Offshore exhibits.
In the Tackle Gallery, visitors sit in an oversize tackle box to watch a video. The exhibit shows how reels evolved, tracking the technology since the 1800s. Overhead, hundreds of rods and reels seem to flow in a wave that follows visitors as they move through the exhibit.
The oldest man-made and natural lures are on display, and fly-fishing enthusiasts can examine a fly tiers table and look overhead through a tank of water to see what a trout sees as it surfaces to gulp down a fly.
In the Catch Gallery, virtual anglers can battle marlin and sailfish. Interactive videos demonstrate techniques for fly casting, bait casting and trolling.
The Places Gallery offers some of the world's top angling destinations, at no cost.
The Legacy Gallery's focus is game fishing. Interactive exhibits celebrate world-record catches and famous fishermen, including the IGFA's first vice president, Ernest Hemingway.
The Discovery Room is designed for tomorrow's anglers with exhibits that are designed for children.
Count on spending at least a half-day at the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum, then head next door to the Bass Pro Shops, one of the largest outdoor stores in the world.
If You Go
International Game Fish Association
300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach
Terry Tomalin is VISIT FLORIDA's Boating and Fishing Insider and the outdoors editor for the St. Petersburg Times. He lives in St. Petersburg.