Croaker cravings

Toby’s friends Rebecca and daughter, Janie Spradley, with hands full of freshly caught croakers.

I had the good fortune of visiting some good friends last weekend for an offshore fishing trip, bringing some big sharks alongside of the boat for CPR: catch, photograph and release. An epic weekend, to say the least, with great friends, great fishing, pretty girls and aged bourbon, all of it capped off with a world class sunburn. But, one event of the weekend did leave me mildly dissatisfied. You see, my party stopped at a local Venice eatery and I was very happy to see that they had frog legs on the menu, but they really let me down.

I love frog legs, but what I dined on that evening merely left me with a sure enough mission. I’ve simply got to get out and catch myself a mess of frogs to settle my appetite. Now, fried frog legs are really kind of tough to mess up once they’re cleaned and in the kitchen. I don’t know what went wrong, though in a way I am grateful to the unfortunate chef, because now not only do I get to look forward to my own reproduction of my great-granny’s fried frog recipe, but I get to go catch them too.

Folks, there are many ways to take a limit of frogs. On occasion, there are some that will take up a rifle, either pneumatic or a small .22, and shoot them during the daytime, but I was taught to just wade out and grab them at night. We’d take a good and bright light and shine it around a pond bank or swamp and spot various eyes from one area. Then a route for stalking the croaker is determined. By keeping the light in his eyes, you just reach out quickly and grab at each frog with a firm grip and soon a sack full of frog legs will be the evening’s reward.

Now, I am getting older and slower and that has made it pretty easy for the smart frogs to get away. So gigging them via a three-pronged spear on the end of a long pole might be a fallback plan for me. That method’s really common in most areas where it’s not so easy to slip up and down the bank. I even know folks who fish their frogs with a cane pole, about 3 feet of line with a bream hook and a piece of red string. The string gets dangled in front of a frog’s nose and it’ll entice him to take a bite most of the time.

When hunting from the bank, one trick I learned — particularly when gigging — is not to aim for the frog’s head (which is more mouth and nose than anything). Instead, aim for the sharp, bony bend right in the center of the croaker’s back. It’s more humane to the frog and if you can hit him right there, the frog can’t wriggle loose of the gig.

A good light is the most important tool for frogging. A powerful flashlight works well, but headlamps are even better, as they let you keep your hands free. Once you spot your frog, don’t shine him again until you’re ready for the final approach. From there, keep the beam directly on the frog’s eyes and slowly close in.

If you have any questions or other input, feel free to contact me at RebelYellOutdoors@gmail.com.

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