Typically, every week or two my uncle would pick me up and we'd head out to some woodland creek or other come full dark. We both wore ancient levis and old tennis shoes, and my job was to follow uncle Ernie about 10 feet behind with a burlap bag in hand and extra flashlight batteries in my pocket.
My uncle carried a gig about 10 feet long with a trident head holding three sharp points and we'd ease along with as little splashing as possible while he shone both banks looking for fat bullfrogs either sitting on shore or half in the water. When one turned up, he'd slip within range and gig the frog, which then went into my burlap bag. With luck, we'd take 15 or 20 fine big frogs, haul them home and skin out the legs, then my mother would flour and fry those legs just like chicken. They were excellent, and a nice reward for a night wading creeks.
That was a long time ago, but some things never change and when I moved to northern Ohio, married, and sired a couple of children, I still often went frogging with a couple of boon companions. Sometimes, we'd hit a large or small lake with a little 12-foot boat, sometimes a farm pond, and many times a creek or small river, but the techniques didn't change much, and it was always exciting.
If there's a trick to frogging it's finding adult bullfrogs. The amphibians start out as tadpoles, feed on algae and other good things, then change into small frogs, losing their tails and growing feet. Some hunters might be willing to take these tiddlers, but I always waited until they were good sized, and let the little guys go for next years action. You should, too. And while wading little creeks is fun, hunting them from a light canoe or small boat can also be productive, .
In larger rivers, I've hunted from my little canoe more than once, checking out the shore on one side, then motoring up the middle and coming back to work the other side. But in little rivers, there are too often fallen trees crossing the stream and brushpiles that demand almost continuous portages to get around them. I remember trying my canoe on the Black Fork River near Mansfield years ago and coming back exhausted, wet and muddy, with only a few frogs. Just too much downed timber.
Farm ponds can be productive When I work farm ponds, I have several options, and at one time or another I've tried them all. One is to simply ease along shore after dark with a flashlight and gig. Most gigs are about 10-feet long or even less, ideal for creek and small river hunting, but for farm ponds I have one that's a bamboo pole close to 20 feet long with the trident on poles end.
Using one this long, I can stand well up on the bank and pick off bulls that are setting among the cattails and brush below or in weed beds just offshore without having to move close enough to spook the animals. In big lakes, the long pole lets me move along shore, though not too close, and reach frogs hiding well back in the cattails.
One frogging sport that I consider more fun than any other is fly fishing for the little amphibians. At least a dozen times I've run into farm pond frogs sitting well offshore in weed beds where even my long gig couldn't reach them. When that happened, I tied a little red or yellow surface popper to lines end and cast out as near as possible to a waiting bull. Then popped it slowly past the animal. Nine times in ten it would spot the gurgle and pop, surge toward the popper, and stuff it into its mouth. Then a quick strike and I'd not only fight it in the water, but in giant hops on the land until I could get a hand on it. Exciting.
Here's a final thought. Every fisherman has fished a pond or creek that was full of big bullfrog tadpoles. The next time this happens, get permission from the landowner and seine out a few dozen, placing them in buckets. Take the tadpoles to other ponds, creeks, and streams that have few or no frogs, and turn them loose. Keep this up year after year and your frogging will just get better and better.
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Hooks & bullets:
• One of the great fears that every Ohio fisherman should have is that Asian carp might get into Lake Erie and destroy or nearly destroy the fishery. Which is why fishery biologists recently conducted a project on the Sandusky and Maumee rivers to assess their ability to catch grass carp. These fish are not in the Asian family, and do little harm, so little that they're routinely stocked in farm ponds and small lakes to feed on vegetation. But it was good practice for the real thing. Did they find any? Yes, indeed. Over three days of fishing, 30 grass carp were collected, three from the Maumee and 27 from the Sandusky.
• Readers with a scientific curiosity should be interested in the Aug. 27 and 28 Lake Erie Workshop for Science and Outdoor Writers. Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab (OSU) are hosting the event which will be held at Stone Lab on South Bass Island. Key experts will discuss everything from harmful algal blooms and water quality to Lake Erie fisheries and marine debris and pollution. For questions or to register, call Ohio Sea Grant at 614-292-8949.
• A reader e-mailed me to ask how to remove a tick after reading about the diseases these little beasts might carry. To do it, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, then pull up with a steady, even pressure. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.