Frogging season in Missouri
When it comes to considering frog legs as a food item, there seems to be no middle ground:
You either enjoy eating them or you’ve never tried them and will never, ever for the remainder of your days here on this earth make even one attempt to taste them. Those who fall into the group that consider frog legs a tasty food item are excited because Missouri’s frogging season is here. (And, while everyone’s entitled to their own opinions when it comes to taste in food, frog legs can add tasty table fare to the dinner menu and they’re also high in omega-3 fatty acids, potassium and vitamin A.)
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 runs from 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 daily 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 and either a gig or 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 (if you’ve ever tasted them, that is).
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 present a safety hazard. (Plus, a shot frog can leap to deeper water and be un-retrievable.)
After June 30, you don’t have to wait until after dark to go frogging, but night is when the majority of froggers go to work because that’s when bullfrogs are most active. Here are frogging’s basics: You wait until dark, then 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 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.
Consequently, 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.
Information about Missouri’s frogging season is available through your nearest Department of Conservation contact person or office. Information about this season and also about the various species of frogs and toads found in the state can be found at mdc.mo.gov.
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.