By M.-J. Taylor
From pulling halibut out of the frigid depths of the ocean off Alaska’s coast to trolling for dolphin (mahi mahi) along the Gulf Stream off the Florida Keys, the coastal waters of our United States offer a wide range of species for anglers seeking adventure. NOAA estimates that about 12 million Americans enjoy sport fishing annually and the IGFA (International Game Fish Association) Museum in Dania, Florida celebrates the all-American pastime.
The entrance to the museum is a large hall with some 170 species fish “swimming” in air over your head – you can almost imagine you are on the sea floor looking up at these record holders. On the floor beneath each fish is a plaque with a date of catch, angler, and where it was caught. The largest fish overhead is a great white shark caught in Australia in 1959 by Alfred Dean – it weighed in a 2,664 pounds … more than a ton!
There are seven galleries with numerous interactive displays including the Discovery Room for kids and a “virtual reality” fishing experience – the Catch Gallery. Just grab a rod and reel in a marlin, sailfish, trout, tarpon, or bass! Visitors can watch “Journeys,” an angling adventure video. Out of doors there is a wonderful wetlands exhibit. A boardwalk and trail takes you along and through four acres of wetlands with informative plaques – and live alligators! There’s also a fishing yacht to explore in the marina outside.
The museum also holds several important collections for anglers who want to learn about the industry of sport fishing and the species caught, including the E.K. Harry Library of Fishes, easily the most extensive fishing library in the world. From first editions of fishing classics to the latest books on angling in print; the library boasts more than 15,000 volumes plus more than 150 outdoor and fishing magazines (some of which date back to the 1930s); more than 2,000 videos and hundreds of technical journals, papers and bulletins from scientific institutions, government agencies and individual researchers. There are literally thousands of slides and photographs that document everything from record catches to action shots of famous and not so famous anglers.
The museum is a must see for anyone who loves the sport – and a truly terrific way to get children excited about fishing. The museum is also a popular venue for events, including weddings.
Your guide to the IFGA Museum is Captain Richard Houde of the Key West deep sea charter, the Southbound. Check the Catch of the Day gallery to can get an idea of what’s biting in the Florida Keys waters today.
The writer, M.-J. Taylor, lives in Key West, FL.