Jeff Bitsack, Unleashed

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Jeff Bitsack, CCO, Euro RSCG, New York
Jeff Bitsack, CCO, Euro RSCG, New York
I can't stand tuna fish. Account people know this well, as I've strictly banned it from any meeting that involves me and lunch. Canned fish and mayonnaise—I don't care if it tastes good, I don't see how anyone gets past that smell. It's gross. End of story. And, actually, the beginning as well.

When I was a little kid, my brothers took sick pleasure in chasing me around the house with open cans of Starkist tuna. They thought I didn't like it because the cat ate it, too. Then, one night, we all found out the likely reason for my aversion. For dinner, the choice was sea bass or starvation. I took the bass, and what happened next was decidedly worse than going to bed hungry. I broke out in enormous hives and my face blew up to freakish proportions. A doctor was summoned and when he arrived he stuck me with a shot of epinephrine. The reaction stopped, and so did the Starkist raids.

Bitsack in North Woods, Maine.
Bitsack in North Woods, Maine.
Turns out I'm allergic to fish. Very much so. It's pretty much the same as an allergy to bee stings or nuts except for the bee sting and nut part. The medical term for it is anaphylaxis, which basically means your tongue swells up and/or you go into shock and die. That is unless you drop your pants and jam something called an Epipen into your thigh to calm things down. For most people, fish would be a pretty easy allergen to avoid. But not for me. I love to fish, and even manage to land a bunch from time to time. That makes me probably one of the very few avid fishermen who's highly allergic to fish. I suppose there's a certain cosmic cruelty in that, and an obvious irony to be sure, but I'm OK with it. The joy fishing brings me far outweighs the worry of suffocating to death courtesy of my own grotesquely swollen tongue.

Fortunately, I can touch fish with little or no problem. But, if I were to, say, get bit by a sharp-toothed fish, or do something really dumb like lick the slime off the belly of an Atlantic salmon, well, that's when things could start to get ugly. So I do my best to prevent such things from happening, tempting as it is to lick a salmon belly.

I don't want to overstate the risk or imply that it contributes to the thrill of tying into such beautiful and powerful wild creatures. I love fishing for lots of reasons, but the chance of dying by fish isn't one of them. Nevertheless, funny how something that could kill me gives me so much life.
Steelhead catch in Babine, River, B.C.
Steelhead catch in Babine, River, B.C.


Ascension Bay, Mexico makes for good tarpon and permit fishing
Ascension Bay, Mexico makes for good tarpon and permit fishing
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