The first time I had the chance to try frog legs was on a shooting trip to France. The legs were prepared in a dish known as “Cuisses De Grenouille a la Provencale”. At the time I was about 17 and was surprised at how shockingly good they were. Growing up in Southern California, I had never been exposed to frog legs. The dish was delicate, flavorful, and as so many French dishes are, very appealing on the plate. I was immediately interested in how to create this dish when I returned home. I quickly started to research the best ways and tactics of how to obtain these little juicy morsels of amphibian food. I quickly found out that most frogs prepared in French restaurants come from farms, and that obtaining frogs in the wild is just about as far from the clean, delicate and fancy preparation you find in French restaurants. It is dirty, smelly, bug, and snake infested. But it is by far one of the most fun activities you can do during the hot summer months when it’s almost unthinkable to do anything in the oppressive heat of the day.
There are several ways to get these tasty hopping critters into your freezer. In most states, you can take them with either a hunting or fishing license. If you choose to take them using a fishing license you are limited to “hand held” methods. This is a term that I came up with to try and describe all the ways that you can take them with a fishing license. Basically, if you can get the frog in your basket or cooler with a device that you hold or operate with your hands. Another way of thinking about it is if you are going to use a gun to take frogs, which is legal in most states, you will need a hunting license.
I have taken frogs with a .22 and it can be a lot of fun, but I find that it can sometimes cause unneeded damage to the meat of the frog. If you are going to use this method, I would recommend that you use a sub-sonic round that is under 1000 fps. This causes minimal damage to the meat and you don’t have to deal with trying to find a frog after causing a small hydro explosion. This can still be a fun way to take frogs, especially when the season goes on and frogs become warier.
I personally prefer to use a gig when hunting/fishing for frogs. A gig or gig pole is a long pole that is between 6-10ft long with a multi-pointed spear tip with barbed points. Think about something that looks like a trident. It is a great way to take frogs and is legal to use in most states with either a hunting or fishing license. My go-to list of gear for a night out frog gigging is short but works effectively for me:
- As I mentioned before, I prefer to use a gig.
- Depending on my location, I will wear a set of waders or my Muck Boots. Mostly I wear my waders so I have fewer restrictions if a good opportunity presents itself.
- Another crucial item for me is a mosquito face net. I made the mistake of not wearing one of these my first night out this year and quickly learned how aggressive the mosquitos can get.
- While walking the banks, a fish basket worked best for me also. The lightweight basket was easy to maneuver around the tall grass and weeds, it prevented the frogs from possibly jumping/falling out and isn’t bulky or awkward to handle.
- A bright, lightweight, handheld flashlight. I’ve tried the headlamps but for me, having the handheld allows me to control the light better as I approach the frog.
- Cooler. I prefer to use one of my Mammoth coolers to ensure the frogs are kept cold for the journey home.
Regardless of what you choose to use to take the frogs with, one consistent trait is that a good frog hunt always starts after dark. This is crucial to success since you use a flashlight to temporarily blind the frog, so you can make your stealthy approach and gig the frog. Try to move as slow as you can without making much noise or commotion in the water. If you try and get out too early you will spook most of the frogs that are beginning to come out at dusk. Although I have lucked into a few good frogs before the sun went down, I would suggest waiting until it is completely dark before you set out.
This also allows the frogs to come out of their daytime hiding places and get out into the open where they are more exposed, thus letting you spot them.
Spotting the frogs can be tricky. They are well camouflaged and don’t like to be seen. It is for this reason that having a strong flashlight is a must. It allows you to look for the eye shine of the frogs and allows you to get close by blinding them to your presence. You can also tell the size of the frog from how big the eyes are and how far apart they sit. This is helpful because often the frogs are partially submerged, and it can be hard to tell how big they are because you cannot see their body.
If you haven’t looked for a frog place before, there are a few things to look for. They love cover, so you will want to look for a pond that has moss, grass, or weeds close to the bank for the frogs to hide during the day. Also, you want to find water with small or no fish in it. Frogs and tadpoles are a favorite snack for fish like bass and catfish, so a pond with lots of fish usually won’t have frogs. Also, frogs tend to prefer stagnant, non-flowing water, so you will want to look for farm ponds or low flow back waters off rivers. I usually find that they like to be in shallow water, between 1-2 feet in depth, max. Also, the more vegetation on the top of the water the better. Big frogs like to use this as cover.
Once you decide a frog is big enough to go after, try to get as close as you can with the gig. Then you’ll need to spear the frog to the ground or into the water and make sure that your gig gets a good stick because if you don’t, the frogs are powerful enough to kick themselves off. Remember that frogs can only jump or swim forward, so when you are ready to gig the frog, always aim as close to the head as you can. This way if it does jump you still have a chance to hit the frog mid-body. I find that this is the ideal place to aim for because it offers the biggest target.
Frog gigging is a great way to spend some hot summer nights. Although they taste delicate and refined, the act of gathering them is just about as far from that as possible. If you haven’t had a chance to get out and try your luck gigging, you should give it a try. It is worth a sweaty evening to collect a few for the freezer.