First posted on 07-10-2009
If you grew up near a farm pond in the Ozarks, you have probably been frogging before.
Although Missouri’s frog season doesn’t get as much publicity as some of the state’s other hunting and fishing events, it’s as much a tradition for some Ozarkers as deer hunting or trout fishing is for others. The season opened at sunset on June 30 and runs through October 31. It’s classified as both a hunting and a fishing season, depending on the method you use. The bag limit is eight bullfrogs or green frogs; the possession limit is 16.
Part of the reason for frogging’s appeal is its simplicity: The only equipment many experienced froggers use is a flashlight, their bare hands and a gunny sack to hold the caught frogs. Other factors contributing to frogging’s popularity is the abundance of bullfrogs throughout the Ozarks and the tastiness of frog legs.
And, of course, part of the appeal for some is the taste of frog legs. My personal experience seems to indicate there’s a definite line of preference when it comes to eating frog legs. On one side of the line are people who love to eat them and on the other side are people who have made up their minds that they will never try them as long as they live. But if you try them, you may very well find out that you’ll want to try some more.
But the big attraction for both experienced and novice froggers is probably the sport’s uniqueness. Put quite simply - there’s no other outdoor activity like it. Unless, that is, you can think of another outdoor sport where the participants pursue their quarry after dark using nothing but a flashlight and their bare hands or a forked gig.
Actually, there are several legal methods for taking frogs, but gigging and grabbing are the most preferred. It’s legal to use a .22 rifle or pistol, BB gun or pellet gun; but these methods are discouraged because of the safety factor. Bullets, BBs and pellets can ricochet off water and, if they do, you don’t know where those projectiles will go.
After June 30, you don’t have to wait until after dark to go frogging, but that’s when the majority of froggers go to work because that’s when bullfrogs are most active. Here are the basics of frogging: You wait until dark, when walk or wade along the bank of the nearest pond or stream searching for frogs. When you see one, shine a light directly in its eyes. This temporarily blinds the frog and allows you to grab it with your hands or gig it and stash it in the sack you’ve brought along. Your prize is the meaty legs of these large amphibians. Size will vary, but some of the larger frogs can have legs measuring up to 10 inches in length.
As with all of Missouri’s hunting and fishing events, frog season occurs at a time when it won’t do irreparable harm to the resource. The peak of the egg-laying period for bullfrogs is in June. By the times the season opens, most of the next generation of frogs has been produced.
Like other outdoor activities, safety is an important component of an enjoyable frogging outing. Just because you’re not using a gun doesn’t mean there’s no need for caution. Remember, you’re walking along a slippery pond edge or stream bank after dark. All it takes is one careless step for a foot to slip or an ankle to twist or for you to fall into water that was much deeper than you expected. Don’t forget to take along a first-aid kit to take care of any type of bite or sting that could occur.
Also, don’t go frogging alone. It’s always better to have a companion or two along should a mishap occur. This also adds to the camaraderie. (Admit it: walking along the edge of a pond in the middle of the night sounds much more enjoyable if somebody’s with you.)
Information about Missouri’s frogging season is available through your nearest Department of Conservation contact person or office. The Department of Conservation brochure “Missouri’s Toads and Frogs” is a good source of information about bullfrogs and other types of frogs in the state. This free publication is available at the Department of Conservation’s Southwest Regional Office in Springfield and at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center. Frogging information is also available at http://www.missouriconservation.org
Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.
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