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Baiting the Hook

Seen from southbound I-95 near Griffin Road, the structure off to the right looks like a giant, gleaming piece of abstract art. But up close its overlapping steel panels look familiar. In fact they look a lot like fish scales, which makes sense considering that the artful building is the new home of the International Game Fish Association World Fishing Center.

Or at least it will be soon. The association won't move from its Pompano Beach digs to the three-story, 63,000-square-foot building in Dania until December 19. But beginning this week the staff is looking for volunteers to help run the place, which will contain a sport-fishing museum, a records repository, the world's biggest library of fish-related books, and IGFA headquarters.

The IGFA was founded in 1939 to set standards for sport fishing, verify record catches, and promote fishing as both recreation and a source of scientific data. The group moved from cramped offices in New York City to Pompano in 1967. The new facility will help achieve another IGFA goal: to make fish facts available to as many people as possible.

While sport-fishing trivia may appeal only to fanatics, even nonanglers will appreciate the building's design and its fun, educational displays. In the foyer the wooden ceiling is shaped like the hull of a fishing boat, from which stainless steel fish dangle, as if swimming. Swirling patterns in the floor tiles resemble sandy ocean bottom.

During a short introductory film, the realism is cranked up a notch. As a marlin leaps across the screen, for example, overhead misters "splash" the audience. Just outside the theater window is the center's marina, which is home to Wheeler, sister ship to Ernest Hemingway's Pilar.

Hemingway is recognized in the Legacy Gallery, along with other famous fishermen, such as Zane Grey. The gallery also offers displays on the history of game-fishing, which has evolved from cane-pole fishing in creeks to deep-sea fishing off the backs of high-tech motorboats.

In the Greats Hall hang life-size castings of world-record whoppers from all 173 game fish species. To get an idea of what anglers are up against, visitors will be able to feel the pull of a 1000-pound marlin through a fishing simulator in the Catch Gallery. Reel that baby in, and you'll taste the thrill of battling such monsters.

-- John Ferri

International Game Fish Association World Fishing Center volunteer orientations will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, September 10 and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, September 12 at the Airport Sheraton Hotel, 1825 Griffin Rd., Dania. Call 954-783-0036.

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John Ferri

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