One hot and muggy July evening, I found myself knee deep in water and mud at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, southwest of Columbia. The evening’s mission consisted of walking the marsh in search of frogs. With gig and light in hand, my gigging mentor, Jenna Stiek, an MDC Stream Team biologist, and I combed various pools and ponds on the conservation area looking for our target species, the green frog and American bullfrog.
Frog Gigging 101
“Frogs are one of the most underutilized of our small game species, and opportunity abounds around the state,” said MDC’s Small Game Coordinator Dave Hoover.
Frog season opens at sunset on June 30 and runs through Oct. 31.
The supplies for frog gigging are simple: a light, shoes you don’t mind getting muddy and wet, a gig, a mesh bag to hold the frogs, and a positive attitude. I used hip boots, and Jenna used a set of chest waders. She led the way through most of the pools in case there was a deeper spot; I really didn’t want water to overtop my hip boots.
We used headlamps for a light source, as they keep both hands free to use the gig. They also, however, attract bugs to your forehead. I ate a fair number of bugs that evening, but what’s the harm in a little extra protein? A handheld spotlight works well when two people are working together. This allows for one person to maintain a spot on the frog and the other to gig. Often a handheld spotlight is more powerful than headlamps, which allows for greater visibility in the darkness.
What Did I Get Myself Into?
After walking a few ponds without success, we finally heard a bullfrog and found its characteristic eyeshine.
“You want to give it a try?” Jenna asked, probably expecting a gung-ho response from me.
Even though she had me take trial shots at floating algae when we first got to the area, I was a little too nervous to try without first seeing how it’s done. I watched as she carefully waded over to the frog, lined up her gig and with one swift motion gigged her unsuspecting target. She brought her bounty over, still on the gig, so I could see the proper gig placement. After giving the frog a swift hit on the head, she put her harvest away in a mesh bag.
An Entry Level Activity
Because it is relatively simple, doesn’t require expensive equipment, and can be done virtually anywhere in Missouri where lakes and ponds exist, frog gigging is an easy hobby to start and a great way to introduce kids to hunting.
“I got started gigging with my dad and grandpa when I was around 5,” Jenna said. “I would go out with them and hold the spotlight.”
Running around in the mud is a fun way to get outside and enjoy our natural resources. Frogs are found in so many places, there’s probably a great frogging pond near your house. MDC has many conservation areas around the state, and if you check out MDC’s Small Game Hunting Prospects brochure (available online at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZGt), you can find areas near you that provide good opportunity for catching frogs. Just make sure you know the regulations no matter where you go.
Allowed Methods and Required Permits
I chose to use a gig during my first attempt at frogging, but there are several legal methods for harvesting a frog, depending on the type of permit you hold. I went with the Small Game Hunting and Fishing Permit to make sure I was legal for all allowable methods.
In addition to the combined Small Game Hunting and Fishing Permit, frogs can be taken with either a fishing permit or a small game hunting permit. Some methods are specific to the type of permit held, and some methods are allowed under either type of permit.
Methods Requiring a Fishing Permit
- Throw line
- Bank line
- Jug line
- Pole and line
Methods Requiring a Hunting Permit
- .22-caliber or smaller rimfire rifle or pistol
- Pellet gun
Methods Requiring Either a Fishing or Hunting Permit
- Hand or handnet
- Artificial lights
Because spotlighting is an effective means of locating frogs, most frog hunting occurs at night, but regulations allow for hunters to pursue frogs day and night. Frogs are active during the day as well, but there’s no need to use a spotlight.
You may not possess night vision or thermal imagery equipment while carrying a firearm, bow, or other implement used to take wildlife.
After stowing away her successful harvest, Jenna put me on notice that my time as an observer was over. “Alright, next one is yours,” she said.
I straightened my headlamp and set off with greater determination to bring home some frog legs, but after walking another pool and not hearing any frogs calling, I was getting disheartened that I wouldn’t bring home any fare for the table.
Suddenly, we caught sight of a frog’s eyeshine, and it was time to put my lessons into practice. With Jenna holding a spotlight on the frog, I thought through her earlier guidance: line up the gig right behind the eyes; use one fluid motion; and don’t immediately pick the gig back up so you don’t lose the frog. I got the first two right but completely forgot the last bit. I immediately pulled my gig back up, and my frog was nowhere to be found. I really didn’t like the idea of not bringing that one home with me, but I knew it would be food for another wildlife species.
Luckily, we found another frog not too far from my missed opportunity. Again, I mentally thought through the checklist: line up, one quick motion, and stay. This time I didn’t move. I yelled for Jenna to help because I didn’t want to lose this one. We got my harvest up, off the gig, and into the mesh bag. Success! I had harvested a frog and couldn’t wait to eat some delicious frog legs.
“Taking the Pants Off”
Since the frogs weren’t very active this evening, and we each had a frog in hand, we decided to call it a night. A twofrog night was a little disappointing, but at six months pregnant, I couldn’t wait to get out of the borrowed hip boots and back into my sandals. With the harvest behind us, my next lesson was how to field dress a frog, or in other words, how to “take the pants off” a frog.
Jenna demonstrated with her harvested frog and then it was my turn. We separated the legs from the torso with hand pruners. From that point, it’s easy to take the skin off the legs, thus the idea of taking the pants off. Once the skin was removed, we cut the feet off and the legs were ready to cook.
“Next One is Yours!”
Frog gigging is a simple and exciting activity for all ages. “All you need is a light and a net, and you can pursue frogs,” Hoover said.
I now see how true that is. Just a little time on a pond or in a wetland and you can come home with some tasty frog legs for your table. I’m already looking forward to my next stroll through the mud.
Fried Frog Legs
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup crushed saltine crackers
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon pepper salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 2 quarts peanut oil
Thaw a possession limit of frog legs (16 pairs), drain, and pat dry with paper towels. Heat oil to 375F. Combine dry ingredients in a large plastic bowl with lid. Dip legs into milk and egg mixture, then drop into bowl with dry ingredients. Cover bowl and shake. Drop legs in hot oil and cook until golden brown.