'Wicked Tuna' Star Nicholas 'Duffy' Fudge: Who Was the Fan Favorite National Geographic Star?

Wicked Tuna is set to return for its tenth season on Sunday night, marking major changes in the show due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also marks the third year since the loss of Nicholas S. "Duffy" Fudge, the 28-year-old favorite from the National Geographic series. Fudge appeared on both Wicked Tuna and the spinoff titled Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks.

He suddenly passed away in July 2018, with the cause connected to decompression sickness according to a report by MarriedBiography.com, also known as "the bends." Fudge was a major part of the series and a fan favorite that still sparks memories for viewers that wish the popular fisherman was still around. With the new tone in season ten due to the pandemic and the losses experienced by the fisherman and the industry, the loss of Fudge is likely to be back on the minds of those who tune in to the premiere Sunday.

In life, Fudge was energetic and fun-loving, as fans saw on TV. He was a lifelong outdoorsman with a passion for fishing, and he treasured the natural environment. He began tuna fishing at an early age, learning from his father and his grandfather.

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(Photo: National Geographic)

"Nick was always the coolest kid, but he had a way of making you feel like you were just as cool," his family wrote in his obituary.

Fudge put his passion to work, and went on to become one of the top names in sports fishing. He was cast on Wicked Tuna by National Geographic not just for his skill, but for his gregarious persona. There, fans got to see the man that his family described in writing.

"His presence could light up any room and he had a heart of gold. He was known for his smile, his fearlessness, his adventurous spirit, his mischievous sense of humour, and giving big hugs," they wrote.

Even his obituary was light-hearted, as his family joked that he would be reunited with his lost possessions in the afterlife.

"Nick now begins his next adventure to locate his missing cell phones, ID’s, and credit cards," they wrote.

Fudge passed away on July 19, less than two weeks before his birthday. On Aug. 1, he would have turned 29. He left behind a beloved girlfriend, Ali Currier, as well as his parents, a younger brother, and several grandparents. The family noted that there were many more people who would mourn his passing.

That included National Geographic and the other folks behind Wicked Tuna. The series' official Twitter account posted a tribute to Fudge shortly after his death.

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"[National Geographic] and [Pilgrim Studios] were saddened to learn that Wicked Tuna cast member Nicholas "Duffy" Fudge passed away this week," it read. "Duffy was the first mate on Captain Tyler McLaughlin's fishing vessel, Pinwheel. We join his family and friends in mourning his untimely loss."

Fudge's carefree spirit is immortalized in many episodes of Wicked Tuna, and continues to bring fans joy in re-runs. The series carries on without him on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic.