Brandon Golueke reels in 97-pound white marlin, third largest in WMO history

(Aug. 14, 2020) Skill? Luck? Devine intervention? Maybe a combination of all three for the Canyon Blues team, who caught a 97-pound white marlin last Saturday, to win the 47th annual White Marlin Open and over $1.8 million.

Fishing is a family affair for the Grossmans, and it all began with Elliott, the patriarch.

“He’s the one that started the tradition in this family,” his son, David said, owner and captain of the Canyon Blues. “It’s a great activity we all do together.”

Elliott took David fishing and when his son, Daniel, was old enough, he joined in the tradition.

“We’ve both been fishing since we were kids,” he said.

They fished together for a number of years, but unfortunately, Elliott passes away a few years ago.

A few weeks before the 2020 Open, David had two of his father’s custom engraved rods from the 1970s refurbished so they could be use during the competition.

When Grossman left the shop where the rods were upgraded, he told the owner one of them would land the winning fish.

“[Elliott] was with us. He was fishing the tournament with us,” Grossman said.

The tournament normally runs Monday through Friday, but was extended to Sunday this year because of Tropical Storm Isaias passing through on Tuesday. Teams could fish three of seven days.

The Canyon Blues team’s first day of fishing was Thursday. The group hooked a white marlin and the length was good enough to qualify – the tournament minimum is 68 inches – but it wasn’t thick enough to outweigh what was on the leaderboard, Grossman said.

They also caught some dolphin that day.

The crew’s second day of fishing was Saturday. Grossman, Daniel and Joey Coyle, both mates, and anglers Brandon Golueke, Greg Perl, Harrison Linnan and Brian Vallario left from Sunset Marina in West Ocean City at 4:30 a.m. Mike Linnan and Jodi Grossman, David’s wife, were not on the boat that day.

They ended up outside the eastern part of the Washington Canyon in about 800 fathoms.

The group caught two dolphin before they had a white marlin bite at 1 p.m. – on one of Elliott’s rods.

Daniel hooked the fish then passed the rod to Golueke.

“It was perfect conditions, perfect water,” Golueke said.

It didn’t jump in the beginning of the fight, so Grossman said they weren’t able to gage how big it was.

They thought it was a “normal white marlin” so they left the lines out for a minute in the hopes to hook a second one. When they didn’t get that second bite, they focused on the one that was on the line.

Daniel grabbed the leader to record an official release, but felt a good amount of pressure, so they wanted to boat the fish, and right around the same time, when the marlin was about 15 feet from the back of the boat, it jumped and they all knew it was a winner.

“We saw we had a huge marlin. It was very long, very thick. You could tell we had a special fish there,” David said. “I’ve been fishing since I was 6 years old and it was the biggest I’ve seen.”

Since the marlin didn’t jump until the end of the fight and they didn’t know what they were dealing with, everyone was relaxed, he said.

“It was a blessing we didn’t know how big it was,” he added. “Everyone was calm, cool and collected.”

“Probably the best thing that could of happened was that we didn’t see it before it was close to the boat,” Golueke said. “There was some panic, but not enough time to sweat it.”

“Everything went picture perfect,” Daniel added.

Golueke, of Chester, Maryland, said there was “a lot of excitement and a lot of adrenaline” while fighting the fish, but it wasn’t too difficult a battle.

“After it first ran it didn’t take off again – it didn’t take much line – and it didn’t jump much,” he said. “It wasn’t as hard as a few other’s I’ve had.”

He got it to the boat pretty quickly – in about 15 minutes – then Coyle gaffed it.

“Normally, we don’t gaff (stick with a hook, or spear) a marlin, but because it was big we didn’t want to lose it or anyone to get hurt,” David said.

“When we got it on board it still had a lot of energy,” Golueke said. “It got the better of some of us. Joey got wacked in the face with the tail.”

When the marlin was on board, everyone went ballistic, screaming and yelling, David said.

They fished for a few more minutes, then decided to head to the scale at Harbour Island Marina on 14th Street.

After running a formula, they estimated the weight of the fish to be between 85 and 95 pounds.

“We thought it would be in the 80s somewhere, and we were wrong,” Golueke said.

The crew docked at Harbour Island and one of the weigh masters told them the fish was going to break some hearts, Daniel said.

It measured 77 inches in length and had a 31-inch girth. The numbers climbed on the scale and it stopped on 97 pounds. It weighs in as the third-largest in tournament history.

“It was mayhem. There was a lot of screaming, yelling, jumping, hugging, cheering,” David said. “Lots of smiles.”

The crew left the fish at the scale and the meat was donated to the Maryland Food Bank.

Golueke said the crew was given some bottles of champagne that night, but they didn’t open them. They wanted to wait until it was official, although they knew the fish would be tough to beat.

The Canyon Blues crew had one day left to fish, so they headed offshore on Sunday. They released two white marlin, one of which was about 72 inches, David said. They also caught some dolphin, several on Elliott’s rods.

“About 90 percent of the fish we caught were on those two rods,” David said.

“Those rods were very active,” Golueke added.

On Sunday evening, they learned their fish was the winner.

Grossman said Tuesday afternoon that it was still a bit surreal.

“It’s awesome. Off-the-chart exciting in so many different ways,” he said. “It hasn’t sunk in. I’m still a little numb. I’m on cloud nine, I guess.”

David has been fishing in the tournament consistently since 1978, and this wasn’t the first time he has been on the leaderboard. The very first year he was entered – when he was 14 years old – he came in second place with an 87-pound white marlin. He was fishing on his father’s boat, the Davy Lee III. They actually received the first-place money because the team that won didn’t enter the calcutta.

Daniel, who lives in Baltimore, has been competing with his dad for about the last 10 years.

“It’s been his dream just to get to the scale,” David said of his son. “He’s been trying to win since he was a little kid.”

Golueke fondly remembers his father – who passed away a few years ago – taking the family to the weigh-ins when he was a kid. He got into the sport about 10 years ago. He had hoped to fish the tournament with his father, but he passed away before they had the opportunity.

Golueke has fished in the Open with the Grossmans four of the last five years, he said.

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