Nicky ‘Duffy’ Fudge gained fame as a cast member on National Geographic’s Wicked Tuna. Duffy died in July 2018, a few days before the start of filming for season 8. Wicked Tuna’s Twitter page announced:

“Wicked Tuna cast member Nicholas’ Duffy’ Fudge passed away this week. Duffy was the first mate on Captain Tyler McLaughlin’s fishing vessel, Pinwheel. We join his family and friends in mourning his untimely source.”

Nicky ‘Duffy’ Fudge reportedly died of decompression sickness

Nicky Fudge’s official cause of death wasn’t released. However, a local fisherman told the New Hampshire Union Leader that Duffy ‘may have been a victim of decompression sickness’.

According to, decompression sickness occurs when nitrogen absorbed in the body in high-pressure conditions forms bubbles as air pressure decreases. Air under high pressure is compressed, so it has more molecules than decompressed air. 

Therefore, in high-pressure conditions, a person breathes more nitrogen and oxygen. Excess oxygen leaves the body, but surplus nitrogen accumulates in the blood and tissues. 

As pressure decreases, the nitrogen in the tissues and circulatory system forms bubbles. The bubbles may injure the tissues or block blood vessels. Symptoms of decompression sickness include swelling and pain in the joints, stroke-like symptoms, and fatigue. 

Type I decompression sickness affects the skin and bones but isn’t typically life-threatening. However, Type II decompression sickness is more severe, with symptoms ranging from numbness to death. Duffy likely suffered from Type II decompression sickness. 

Duffy’s obituary states that he left behind his brother, parents, maternal grandparents, paternal grandfather, girlfriend, extended family, and many friends. It reads:

“Someone once said, ‘Nick was always the coolest kid, but he had a way of making you feel like you were just as cool.’ 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 humor, and giving big hugs.”

Captain Tyler McLaughlin picked his sister, Marissa, to replace Duffy as his first mate. Tyler stated that Marissa had much to learn but was qualified for the role. He told National Geographic:

“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.”

Tyler dedicated his first catch of the season to Duffy. “We just caught a fish on the spot where Duffy and I caught our last fish together,” Tyler 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.”