Froggin in Mississippi

“Tastes like chicken,” says Lance Zender, a local outdoorsman from the Choctaw Bayou area. Lance is that oh so very southern of species–he is a frogger.

More than 30 types of frog and toad live in the Magnolia state according to the ASA. These range from the tiny inch-long Oak toad, which is the smallest toad in North America, to the huge American bullfrog, which is the largest at over 8-inches. In between are legions of chorus frogs, narrow mouthed toads, pig frogs, barking tree frogs, leopard frogs, and gray and white Fowler’s toads. The most popular with frog hunters are the olive to brown colored pig frog which can reach 6-inches in length, the Southern Leopard which is spotted green and brown, and of course the American bullfrog. To say the least, there is a very diverse and abundant frog population in the state.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) classifies frogging as Small Game Hunting along with rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, possum, and bobcat. The frog season in Mississippi lasts from April Fool’s Day to the end of September typically, and as such is the longest season of any game in the state at six full months. Currently the bag limit is set at 25 frogs and toads per night-that is fifty legs and a good meal for the whole family. Be sure to have your license, hunters ed card (if needed) and be up-to-date on your limits and seasons by visiting the MDWFP website.

Best areas to Frog

Oxbow lakes, gum ponds and almost anywhere you see lots of flying insects and lilypads is going to be an ideal place for the frogger to practice his art.

The marsh-rich Gulf Coast area, with its numerous wetlands, bayous, rivers and streams, are slightly warmer in the winter than areas north of I-20, and as such, the frog population continues to breed over the winter in many coastal estuaries. This means in the spring there is an explosion amongst the lily pads and swamp grass of frog overpopulation. These fertile breeding grounds of the Pascagoula river system for instance are home to as many as 109 species of fish, a unique species of turtle found only there, and all 30 of the known frogs in the state in its 9600-square miles of wetlands. It is quite literally a frogger’s paradise.

That’s where Lance works his magic.

Frog hunting techniques

Working from a flat-bottomed aluminum boat older than he is, Lance prowls the bayou on most weekend nights with a Q-beam spotlight and his half-brother Monroe, looking for the big bullfrogs. The team shares the hunt and the wealth, with one driving the boat and the other perched on the side, spotlight in hand.

“You look for eyes,” Lance explains. “As soon as your run that spotlight across the water, the eyes pop up like stars. Then head for the closest set.”

Once close enough to a keeper toad, it is up to the individual frogger as to how he takes them. Some people go ‘old-school’ and snatch the mesmerized fly-eater from its perch on a log or lilypad then toss it in the container. Others use a.22 rifle to pop the critter, and then scoop it up with a dip net. Still others gig for frogs, channeling the ancient hunter-gatherer with a spear experience still locked inside their DNA from before time.

“I’m a paddler,” boasts Monroe. The leather-skinned frogger explains that the term is what the locals use to describe the method of stunning the frog with a good smack of a boat paddle, then retrieving it as it floats around wondering what truck hit it.

To hold your frogs some sort of good solid container with a lid is preferred such as an ice chest, garbage can, or rubber made type container. Lance is a fan of pickle buckets with the lid tied to the bucket by a string so it does not fall out of the boat in the dark and float down the bayou. “Yea, that happened once.” Lance says

It is only natural that there is a more high-tech set who advocate fancier means of toad control. Some froggers use perch baskets. There are even local cottage industry manufacturers who sell specially made Frogging Baskets. Made with PVC coated wire and a rubber pinch top the baskets are designed to fit inside a 48-quart cooler and safely hold up to 150 frogs at a time.

That’s a lot of frog legs.

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