This season of Wicked Tuna has been an emotional roller coaster for Captain Tyler McLaughlin, who is working his first season without his best friend and first mate, Nicholas "Duffy" Fudge. McLaughlin dedicated another catch to Fudge, and said his late friend would be proud of his replacement, McLoughlin's sister Marissa.
In a clip National Geographic Channel released on Saturday, McLoughlin said he was afraid of pushing himself too hard this season. Not only is it his first without Fudge, but he is under pressure to repeat as champion with the most earned at the end.
"I'm afraid I might burn out this season, so I'm relying on Marissa to be a solid first mate," McLoughlin said. "She's got a lot to learn, but she's got her captain's license. She can navigate. She can read a radar. She knows how to drive the boat. She can run it when we're fighting fish. I mean, she's more than qualified."
Marissa showed how quickly she learned the trade, helping McLoughlin secure the fish.
"For Duffy. For the Duff," McLoughlin said after the caught the fish.
"Me and my sister are hanging in there with the rest of the fleet right now," McLoughlin continued. "That's pretty bad a–. Duffy would be proud."
At the beginning of last week's season premiere, McLoughlin looked distraught after getting onto his boat the Pinwheel for the first time since Fudge's death. Marissa assured him that Fudge would want him to fish this season. By the end of the episode, they caught their first fish.
"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."
That first fish weighed 391 pounds and was worth $7,820.
"The first one for the Duffy Memorial Foundation," McLoughlin said, high-fiving Marissa.
At the very end of the episode, National Geographic aired a montage of Fudge's best scenes with McLoughlin from previous seasons.
Fudge died suddenly on July 19, 2018 at 28, just days before the new season began filming. McLoughlin said he would dedicate the entire season to his friend.
"All tuna fisherman have this bond with each other," Captain Paul Hebert of the Wicked Pissah said in last week's episode. "When someone passes, we all feel it. Every one of us."
New episodes of Wicked Tuna air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on the National Geographic Channel.
Photo credit: NatGeo