by Bill Cooper
Jason Parsons sat on a camp stool on the bow of a 20-foot-long, narrow jon boat. In his hands was a menacing gig, poised and ready for action.
I inched the ancient boat slowly forward with a 16-foot gig pole without a gig attached. It functions well as a push pole.
Pat Yabarra sat on the middle seat of the boat pointing a high-powered spotlight at a bullfrog with handsome yams. The frog sat hunkered on the muddy bank of a backwater river slough.
Mesmerized by the blinding light, the bullfrog sat motionless as we inched the boat forward. I feared the frog would freak, but Parsons held his gig until the bow of the boat approached a mere 18 inches from the unsuspecting frog. Parsons painstakingly slipped the frog gig to within inches of his quarry. Then, with a lightning fast jab, he had our first frog of the night.
Why gig frogs? For one, it’s an extremely fun excuse to be in the wildest of our wild places, and be there in the deep, dark of night. Secondly, and primarily, frog legs taste fantastic, and you’re not going to find them at the local super market.
Frog gigging has long been a nighttime sport pursued by hearty outdoorsmen who fein fearlessness of creatures that go bump in the dark. Commonly thought of as a Southern tradition, most frog giggers don’t consider it an insult to be called a redneck.
Poking around in a muddy pond, a river or a gaseous smelling, backwater slough hoping to spear frogs is not what most people consider the high-class nightlife. However, it is an adventure that few forget once they give it a try.
Before you try frog gigging, check with your state wildlife agency on the regulations. Most states have regs on taking bullfrogs, and they may vary greatly.
Frog gigging is the ultimate simple outdoor pursuit. All one needs to participate is some sort of a gig and a source of light. One may ply the pond and river banks on foot with this simple list of equipment. However, to add both fun and more success to the trip, a of boat or canoe really helps.
Information about frog gigging is about as scarce as hen’s teeth. I have never seen a TV show on frog gigging. Nor have I ever seen a frog gigging DVD offered for sale. The bottom line is that not many people frog gig anymore. The net result for those of us who do is very little competition.
Over the years I have chased frogs in about every imaginable manner. I have gigged on foot, from canoes, belly boats and larger boats. Obviously, the larger the craft, the more finesse one must use to close the distance between the gig and a frog.
Equipment used by frog giggers is largely a matter of personal choice. A simple frog gig can be picked up your local sporting goods store or online retailers for about $4. During my heydays of frog gigging, I used to buy frog gigs made of aircraft steel that were cut out in one piece with a water jet. They were absolutely the best gigs I ever used. However, they set me back $75 each.
Once you select a gig, you will need a handle. Bamboo, pine dowels, fiberglass and aluminum handles are all available. Bamboo is extremely light and durable. In emergencies, I have been known to borrow the handle from my wife’s broom. If you do that, be sure to wipe the frog slime from the handle before reattaching it to the broom.
The varieties of lights are endless. Froggers need a fairly powerful light with a headband. This allows one to have both hands free to operate a gig. Two hands are needed to be accurate. Using only one hand while spearing frogs will ensure many misses and poor jabs which will result in more injured frogs which will escape.
It is helpful for every person in the boat to have their own headlamp. This aids a great deal when any one individual is trying to find something in the bottom of the boat. The biggest drawback to everyone having a light is that often one occupant of the boat shines his light into the eyes of another, effectively destroying his night vision.
The ultimate light to have in a frog gigging boat is a million candle light power light that operates off of a car or marine battery. These lights produce a very powerful beam that reaches a very long way, allowing giggers to search banks far ahead of the boat. It never hurts to plan your approach strategy well ahead of time as you move toward a potential frog target.
Froggers also need some method of storing their frogs once they have been captured. Old timers preferred old potato or grass sacks. They are wetted down and the frogs are tossed inside. The wet burlap bag keeps the frogs both moist and fresh.
A cooler is a good way to go. Our crew prefers to use metal stringers. They are cheap and take up little room for transport.
The slough loomed dark and foreboding, but the heavy “barrruuummmmphms” of heavy-yammed frogs deeper in the swamp coaxed us onward. The denizens of the dark, primarily millions of bugs attracted to the lights, swarmed us relentlessly. However, other creatures of the night proved entertaining as we watched muskrats, bats, beavers and wood ducks prowling about.
Parsons and Ybarra abandoned the boat to wade as the water became shallow at the far end of the slough. Minutes later, they each returned with a frog.
Soon we discovered a big frog hiding far back up under a fallen sycamore tree. Parsons, myself and Ybarra’s two sons, Lance and Gavin, watched in amazement as their dad negotiated deep, stinky, marsh mud and climbed over logs and dodged limbs to approach the monster frog. Ybarra had to stand on his tip-toes to reach over a high log. He then slowly lowered his gig toward his prey. We all held our breath as the drama between the hunter and the hunted played out before us. Ybarra stood silent after making his jab for the frog. We couldn’t stand the suspense.
“Did ya get ‘em,” one of the boys yelled.
“Well, yeah,” came the response from a grizzled old frog gigger, one who is as at home in the swamp as the frog themselves!
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