Captain Tyler McLaughlin felt the pressure on the first day of the Wicked Tuna season without his late friend and first mate, Nicholas "Duffy" Fudge.
With "Fishing For Duffy" printed on one sleeve of his sweatshirt, McLaughlin was in tears the night before the new season. His sister and new first mate, Marissa, reminded him that Fudge would have wanted them to soldier on. So, McLaughlin took his boat the Pinwheel out to a spot where he and Fudge made one of their first catches last season.
As seen in the previously released teaser, McLaughlin dedicated the first catch of the season to Fudge, and that put on added pressure to make that catch as soon as possible. Unfortunately, he did not
"No fish ever in my career has ever meant as much as catching this fish right here," McLaughlin said. "We want to catch this fish for Duffy."
Catching that first fish was not easy. Marissa and McLaughlin had a fish on his line for several hours, but it got away that night.
The next day, Marissa explained that McLoughlin struggles with grief and was just trying to fish through it. So, she tried to cheer him up by recreating one of the meals they had with Fudge.
Later, McLoughlin began to grow nervous as the other captains caught their last fish together. He also reflected on how difficult it will be to repeat as champion without Fudge, considering that he also has to train his sister.
Finally, McLoughlin and Marissa got their second shot in towards the end of the episode. "Keep doing it for Duffy!" McLoughlin told his sister as she stood behind the fishing pole.
"The fish is not far away. Duffy is smiling down on us," McLoughlin said as he pulled the reel in.
After a few tense moments, the brother-sister duo finally brought the fish aboard the boat.
"We just persevered. We just caught a fish on the spot where Duffy and I caught our last fish together," McLoughlin said. "I don't care if we get $2 a pound, $25 or $30 a pound. I'm just so happy to have this fish. It means so much to us."
At the end, McLoughlin and Marissa were told the fish could get them $20 a pound. Since it weighs 391 pounds, they could get $7,820 for it.
"The first one for the Duffy Memorial Foundation," McLoughlin said as he high-fived Marissa.
At the end of the episode, Nat Geo showed a montage of the best scenes of Fudge and McLoughlin fishing together.
Fudge's sudden death on July 19, 2018 was just a few days before the new season started. In an emotional scene early in the episode, McLaughin told Marissa the season is "not going to be the same" without his best friend. Even the other captains mourned McLaughlin's loss.
"All tuna fisherman have this bond with each other," Captain Paul Hebert of the Wicked Pissah said. "When someone passes, we all feel it. Every one of us."0comments
Fudge's cause of death was not made public, but New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Kimberley Haas reported that local fisherman said he may have been a victim of decompression sickness.