It’s truly an adventure. It’s quite unusual. It’s a challenge. It’s entertainment value is high. And, it will create memories like no other outdoor experience!
This is a one-of-a-kind outdoor activity that allows individuals to fully experience nature, day or night!
Getting to spend those late hours under the stars and the moon, listening to insects a buzz around a pond or wetland, feeling a cool summer breeze, and perhaps acquiring some fresh, delicious wild fare for the dinner table all makes catching bullfrogs or going “bullfrogging” very rewarding.
This time-honored, late-summer/early fall outdoor activity is also a wonderful way to introduce kids to an aquatic environment. Catching frogs by hand, hand net and hook and line, is super exciting, since kids can get real close to their quarry. The bullfrogs can be caught and released, too! Don’t most kids love to chase after and attempt to grab a big frog that is jumping and splashing around the water?
Over the years, I have enjoyed trying to catch bullfrogs with friends and family in late summer at night in Nebraska! In high school, I even took a couple dates for after-dark bullfrog expeditions! Believe me, those dates were far cheaper than pizza and a movie!
When it comes to catching bullfrogs, the more you know, the better. Here are the basics of bullfrogging in Nebraska.
Bullfrog hunting is really a misnomer here in the Cornhusker State. Yes, there is a season on bullfrogs which runs from August 15 through October 31. However, bullfrogs are aquatic creatures (amphibians) and you need a current, valid Nebraska fishing permit in order to take or attempt to take them.
There are specific regulations on harvesting bullfrogs. A size limit or a minimum length limit has been put on the bullfrogs. They have to be 4 1/2-inches long from snout to vent to be able to be kept. Additionally, there are limits on how many legal-sized bullfrogs one can have which are eight in the daily bag and sixteen in possession. The season and limits are in place allow bullfrogs to reach maturity and reproduce at least once or twice before they are harvested.
By the way, if you’re wondering, you can catch bullfrogs by hand, hand net or hook and line day or night. Gigging and spearing them are not allowed nor is shooting them with a firearm or bow since there is a minimum length limit established on the frogs and the smaller ones need to be released alive. You can catch and immediately release all of them, if you so choose. Artificial lights may be used to capture bullfrogs, as well. Bullfrogs can be transported live or field dressed but the body must be left intact due to that length limit.
Research has been done on bullfrogs and bullfrog harvest in Nebraska for conservation purposes and the regulations are in place to keep bullfrog populations healthy and renewable.
The items needed for bullfrogging are pretty basic: T-shirt, swim trunks or old pair of shorts, water shoes, river sandals or old pair of tennis shoes, large mesh or burlap bag that can be cinched, dip net or fishing tackle (optional), powerful hand-held flashlight, head lamp or ball cap lights, and insect repellent.
The Location and the Times
The largest frog in Nebraska, the North American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus), is found in many aquatic habitats statewide. The bullfrog is almost always hanging out near some source of water such as a lake, pond, reservoir, river or marsh. Warm, still, shallow waters with a lot of aquatic cover, vegetation and algae favor bullfrogs by providing suitable habitats for their food, growth, reproduction and escape from predators. Look for areas with cattails and willows. Bullfrogs are most active at dawn, dusk and nighttime in these areas. They like to move during humid, rainy evenings. Listen for the male bullfrog’s unique call which is deep, loud and unmistakable. It is a distinctive low-toned bass-like call, (sounds like a low “Ru-u-umm – Ru-u-umm”).
The North American Bullfrog is an aquatic game species that demands craftiness, stealth and absolute quiet to nab, but one that is not dangerous and doesn’t stink when handled.
An effective method to catch a bunch of bullfrogs is to move slowly shining shorelines with a good flashlight after dark.
Spot the frogs on land, keep the light directly on them so they’ll freeze in position, and then ease in close enough to catch them with a net or even by hand. Be careful and try to approach low from the blind spot of the bullfrog located in the center of the back of its head. Be sure when you commit to catching one, you are quick and firm with your grip. Hold the bullfrog by grasping around the “upper thighs” with its legs together. Keep in mind that bullfrogs can easily slip out of hands due to their strong hind legs and slippery skin!
Also, our Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Fish/Fishing Guru, Daryl Bauer, uses his angling gear to hook bullfrogs. Here’s a video of Daryl talking about catching bullfrogs with his fishing tackle.
The Cleaning of the Frog
Once at home, the proper way to clean a bullfrog is to first dispatch it quickly and humanely. The next step involves cutting the skin around the back and the belly with a sharp knife. Following that, skin the the legs with a pair of pliers. Then, cut the legs from the torso and trim off the toes. A pair of poultry shears (or game shears) comes in handy for dressing bullfrogs.
The Cooking of the Frog Legs
The legs and meat of bullfrogs are definitely worth the effort! They are flavorful, tender, juicy, delicious, and no, they don’t taste like chicken! They taste like frog legs! Their consistency is best described as a cross between sweet chicken-wing meat, and flaky white fish. They have no fat on them. The biggest challenge with cooking frog legs is the same one that’s common to most seafood preparations, namely overcooking. There a several different ways to cook frog legs after washing them off with cold water. Some folks simmer them in white wine, olive oil and garlic. Here’s one of my favorite recipes.
FABULOUS FRIED FROG LEGS
Sprinkle frog legs with lemon pepper, pepper and lemon juice. Dip in favorite breading or cracker crumb/egg mixture. Chill 1 hour. Saute in butter until brown, or fry in very hot canola oil for 3 minutes. Allow 1/2 pound per person. Savor every bite!
Have fun bullfroggin’!
FACT: Amphibians, such as bullfrogs, are an indicator species of a clean environment.