Frog Gigging- An Introduction to a Purely Backwoods Pastime
Frog gigging is an experience which I largely took for granted until I moved back to civilization after a long hiatus in backwoods Florida. Though I’ve heard the term used in a derogatory or negative fashion, most frog gigging aficionados I’ve known have borne the moniker of redneck with pride. And indeed, after living for more than ten years amongst them, I was happy to be considered an honorary redneck.
That being said, frog gigging is a hallmark of the redneck way of life: functional in getting one’s dinner, pleasantly barbaric, and including lots of engine noise and acceleration.
If you’re considering trying it out for yourself, allow me to educate on a few of the finer points and quirks of this sport.
A Frog Gig
To start, you will need a few things. First off, it’s probably best to go with a friend or commission a guide who owns his own airboat. Obviously this presents a pretty large investment if you’re going to go out and buy your own airboat. But, boys and toys…
Next you will need a gig. Such pronged heads can easily be mounted on a length of PVC or bamboo. The length is entirely up to you. I find about ten feet is appropriate, and I’ll tell you why later.
A third man and a portable beam lamp is a must. The lamp should be as powerful as you can afford.
Finally, the most important thing you can take with you on a frog gigging expedition is beer. Two cases should do it. If you luck out you might not even have to pay a guide at all.
Imagine yourself out on the water of a river or lake in the middle of the night. There’s not a light around and you can’t see the shore, and the moonlight is broken up by the placid, rippling water. You can hear chirps and croaks surrounding you on all sides, and your friend picks out frogs with his beam lamp. They sit still on the water’s surface, their bulging eyes reflected in the lamplight.
What seems natural in this calm, serene scene? Blasting across the water at top speed while trying to spear the little croaking buggers, of course.
That is essentially what frog gigging is, a modern-day form of jousting against an opponent smaller than your hand. Once you spear a frog, you scrape its wriggling, impaled body into a bucket and start aiming for the next one. It may seem that the only challenge in all this is getting your aim right as you pass, but this is actually the least of your worries.
You know the guy who’s driving the boat, the one on his third beer of the hour in the seat behind you on the tiny little skiff with its big-ass engine and propeller? You realize that his seat is only about a foot higher than yours? You realize you can’t see jack as your blasting across the water at sixty miles an hour?
You realize the driver can’t see any more than you can … right?
Try not to let yourself think of what happens if a tree-trunk looms up out of the water suddenly or the shoreline rises up in what’s really more of a cliff than a bank.
And then there’s the issue of the other inhabitants of many southerly waterways. Sure there are snakes, insects, fish of all kind, but I’m thinking of something decidedly more … scaly.
Alligators tend to float near the top of the water at night as well. Their eyes reflect back the light from your lamp as well. See where I’m going with this?
Someone new to frog gigging may make the grievous error of mistaking an alligator for a frog. That’s exactly why your frog gigging pole should be as long as you can comfortably use, because if you spear a gator while shooting across the water faster than the interstate speed limit you want the gator to be as far from your body as possible.
There’s a tremendous jerk, aside from the guy driving the boat, which can jar the pole from your hands. Remember, it’s not that expensive of a tool, so let it go. Don’t feel sorry for the gator; they’re not the poor, misunderstood, endangered species that Animal Planet would lead you to believe. They have an incredible ability to ignore pain and heal from most wounds that don’t kill them outright. So imagine your predicament if you’ve just ticked off such a creature heavier and longer than the airboat. I’ve seen them actively attack and try to bite the side of the airboat. Though it’s very rare, there’s a chance they can overturn the airboat, leaving you in the middle of a lake or river with blood in the water from your frogs and speared gator.
There’s a certain feeling of the bottom of your stomach dropping out. In these situations, it may seem barbaric, but just go ahead and run the boat over the gator. It will only stun him, they’re pretty hard-headed.
You know, now that I look this over, is it any wonder that a lot of people from the rural south have a reputation for being a little crazy? This seems downright suicidal on paper, but it’s all good fun once you get out there. Just worry about the problem when it happens and not before.
The Mighty Hunter Returns
Assuming you’ve survive your little outing, you come tromping home with a dirty gig, bucket full of amphibian corpses, and a triumphant smile.
Throw your heard back and proclaim to the sky, “I am the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end! I am become death incarnate to all froggy kind! Bow down and ribit in mortal fear of my wrath!”
All hail the might hunter indeed.
Time to eat.
The majority of the frog is, unfortunately, inedible, leaving just the legs. It’s important to give them a good washing first to get rid of any unsanitary detritus clinging to their skins. The last thing you want is to spend the rest of the night bowed over the porcelain lord shouting at Huey. “Huey! Huuuuuueeey!”
A few quick snips with a pair or scissors or clean garden shears will cut the legs free. Try to get in between the femur and pelvis, else the femur will splinter. The bodies should be discarded … I wouldn’t want to be the poor homeless guy who opens the lid on that trash can. Imagine the look on his face at the sight of a dozen rotting frog bodies. I’ll bet he’ll keep clear of your place for quite a while; probably thinking an axe murderer lives there.
In any case, the skin comes away easily. Just use a pair of pliers to take hold of it and pull it from the hip down, like removing a sock or glove.
The meat can be pan-seared, but it’s really best breaded in cornmeal and fried. Try peanut oil for an added kick of flavor.
The meat tastes like chicken breast (or does chicken just taste like everything else?) but is much juicier. Picking the last morsels from the toes can be a difficult task, and definitely something a child should be witness to just once in his life. Trauma, I find, is like chicken pox: best to get it over with early.