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RodnReel.COM FEATURE ARTICLES

Mike LaneThey're Literally Jumping in the Boat
Category: General
Date: 6/26/2003
Written By: Mike Lane - Louisiana Fishing and Hunting

They're Literally Jumping in the Boat

By Mike Lane
RodnReel.com

Well, it's Tuesday Night in New Orleans. What should we do, go out to a club, go out to eat, go listen to ZZ Top and Ted Nugent in concert… Nah, let's go frogging.

Actually, the concert sounded good, but we had a date with Captain Jack Payne of Jumping Jack Charters. Jack had three newcomers, Helmut Ermlich, Dina Solaski and me. None of us had been frogging before.

We launched at Cochara's in Lafitte and headed out lighting the dark with a million power handheld spotlight as our only beacon in the night. Jack told us that dark nights were the best. The sky was laden with dark rain clouds and the moon had not yet risen, it was dark.

We entered Jack's 3,300 acre lease in the Blue Point Area. Jack kept lighting the banks as we went down a myriad of canals that Jack has traveled since he was a young boy. No maps, no GPS, we were traveling on Jack's built-in autopilot.

Jack hunts frogs in a 16-foot mud boat with a 72 hp Subaru engine. Mud boats have a transmission; neutral, forward and reverse. This may sound pretty standard compared to your car, but not all boats designed to run in wet mud have reverse. The reverse comes in handy when trying to capture these nocturnal jumping rockets.

We were in search of the yellow-throated Marsh Frog, also known as the Pig Frog. Jerald Horst, Associate Professor, Fisheries, shared some scientific information and relived some of his frogging experiences with me. Horst said "The Scientific Name is Rana grylio. This frog is smaller than a bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) but tastes very similar.

Mature females lay approximately 10,000 eggs after mating. Most frogs served in restaurants are imported and lack the great taste of the local frogs. Its primary diet consists of insects and crustaceans. Both frogs are aggressive feeders and are mainly active at night and does most of its feeding at this time. Horst says both the bullfrog and the pig frogs will hit poppers and worms of sport fishermen when the baits are presented within 18 inches of them.

Although the pig frog is compared in many senses to the bullfrog, their voices are entirely different. Instead of the jug-o-rum of the bullfrog, this frog has a sound that is likened to Cruk Cruk and is so named by many Cajuns.

There is a circular area directly behind the eye. This circular area is the frogs eardrum. The male's ear is greatly larger than its eye, whereas the female's ear is equal in size to the eye."

As we traveled through the marsh, we saw the reflectors of gators every 1,000 feet or so. Their eyes really light up at night, even a first timer can spot all the gators. It's amazing how many gators are out there. Jack estimated that he saw over 200 in the 3 hours we searched for frogs.

After about 20 minutes traveling through the swamp, we entered a large lagoon about 2 feet deep. The water column was packed with Widgeon Grass. We struck gold or should I say yellow. Jack said there's one over there. We had a little problem spotting the first one, since we didn't know where to look or what they looked like in the water. As a mater of fact, I thought we would find them sitting on the banks. The fact is they are rarely seen in the daylight, and are usually found hiding in aquatic vegetation. They are entirely aquatic, always surrounded by vegetation, and are rarely seen on land.

The Widgeon Grass was the ticket. The frogs sat nestled in the grass with just their heads above water. They looked a lot like Easter eggs sitting in that green grass in an Easter basket.

Jack would point the frog out and then hold the light on him. He would slowly move the boat alongside of the frog. It was our job to grab the frog with our hands. Dina went first and did a good job of grabbing them. She got more than she missed and was laughing and smiling. She wasn't afraid of touching and grabbing them. No talk of "they're slimy" or "I don't want to get warts". She just went for it and got 'em.

When the boat glides into position, you have to be ready. When you start to move your hand toward them you have to move fast, real fast. They take off like a rocket. It is amazing how fast they can move and how far they can jump. They are just hard enough to catch to make it fun. It's not at all like picking blackberries.

We had Jack hold the boat close to the frogs so we could photograph them. They would sit still with the boat right next to them for a long time as long as you didn't move to close or make fast moves.

It's really interesting to watch this microenvironment up close. The frogs and the insects go on with their routines like you weren't there. The frog is concentrating on his prey while the dragon flies are concentrating on it's prey while the smaller insects are concentrating of their prey… becoming to small for us to see. Now along comes the frog hunter…

We went from lagoon to lagoon and through slews sometimes only inches wider than the boat and winding like a snake. Sometimes we were in water deep enough for the boat to float and at others times the mud was wet but no water on top. It was a blast to run around in it with Jack's "four wheeler" is search of the "croakers".

We ended the night with 47 frogs, memories and some great pictures.

Next time you ask yourself what's kicking tonight and you want to do something that's fun, legal and different give Jack a call. He takes charters out during the season. He can take from 1 to 3 people. This would really be a blast for children and a parent. The kids will love it, and so will the parents.

If you have your own Mud Boat or Go Devil, here's another way to put your boat to work before duck hunting gets going. You can hunt in the same areas that you duck hunt in. Most land is either privately leased or owned/managed by the State or federal governments. According to Captain Brusher of Wildlife & Fisheries, it is legal to frog at night on State Wildlife Management Areas unless stated otherwise for a particular Management Area. Be sure and know the legality of frogging the Management Area or only frog on private land that you own or lease. Be sure and have a permit for any Wildlife Management Area you are utilizing.

Here are some excerpts relative to frogging for LDWF and a link to their web site for all of the details.

Link to Louisiana Frogging Regulations:

http://www.wlf.state.la.us/apps/netgear/index.asp?cn=lawlf&pid=562

All residents and non-residents engaged in collecting non-protected reptiles and/or amphibians for non-commercial purposes (personal use as food, bait, etc.) must possess a Basic Resident or Nonresident Fishing License.

Removal of nesting or nest-tending animals is prohibited.

Frogs may be taken using any visible light and mechanical devices known as frog catchers or with devices that puncture the skin such as gigs and spears.

Possession of firearms while taking or hunting frogs at night is prohibited.

No person shall take or possess bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) that are less than 5 inches in length, nor take or possess pig frogs (Rana grylio) that are less than 3 inches in length. Length is measured from the tip of the muzzle to the posterior end of the body between the hind legs.

Let's talk about the best part… Cajun Cuisine - Frog Legs

Frog Legs Sauce Piquante Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse and www.foodnetwork.com

1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme
12 frog legs (about 1 pound) 1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon flour 3 cups chopped tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 cup chopped onions 1 teaspoon Tabasco
2 tablespoons chopped green bell peppers Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons chopped red bell peppers 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped celery 2 cups steamed rice, hot Garnish:
1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon cayenne 2 tablespoons brunoise red peppers
1 bay leaf 2 tablespoons brunoise yellow peppers

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. When the pan is smoking hot, add the frog legs and brown lightly on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the frog legs. Add the flour to the oil. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes to make a light brown roux. Add the onions, peppers, celery, salt and cayenne. Saute the vegetables for 3 to 4 minutes or until wilted. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and Tabasco. When the mixture comes up to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Lay the frog legs in the sauce and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, basting with the sauce. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the parsley. Spoon the mixture over steamed rice. Garnish with the green onions and peppers.

Fried Frog Legs Recipe courtesy of http://www.cookinglouisiana.com

Fried Frog Legs is a very popular dish in South Louisiana. Oh I know "those poor little frogs", well.... "those poor little shrimp!" I've heard people say " try them, they taste like chicken", hey, they taste like frog legs to me.... whatever... This is a "tight crust" recipe so greasiness is at a minimum! This recipe will fry about 2 doz. small Frog Legs. Frog Leg preparation: Wash the legs, season them and keep them cool. That's it.

Wet mix

2 eggs
2/3 cup of milk
1 tbs. Creole Seasoning (your choice)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Put legs in wet mix. Mix it all up and marinade it for 30 or more minutes in the ice box.

Dry Mix

2 cups corn flour (see note 1) or fish fry, or just plain flour.
3/4 cup cornstarch (makes it stick better)
2 Tbs. Creole Seasoning
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
1/2 tsp. Cayenne
1 tsp lemon and pepper seasoning

Don't hesitate to adjust any of the above to your liking...

Cooking: Dredge the legs in the dry mix and let sit a minute or so moving them around just a little. Using a paper bag works good for this too. Just drop the legs in and shake it up a few times. Use peanut oil, about 2" in the pan depending upon the pan depth. Heat to 365ºF (hot oil will burn you badly, be careful). Place legs in the oil a few at a time leaving at least a 1/2" space between pieces. Why? If you pack the pan with too much meat the oil cools too much and that equals soggy legs (not good). Stir them around every 10 seconds or so.

Timing: Cook them about 5 minutes. I watch the bubbling to judge the doneness, I don't time it. Let them fry until they bubble lightly. If they quit bubbling completely they're overcooked. With practice you can get each piece done perfectly. You cannot tell how done the legs are by the outer color, it's all in the bubbles!

Remove the legs and place on paper towels. Move them around so the grease is soaked up. Taste one once they're cooled a little to see if you need to add any seasoning. Transfer them to another pan with more paper towels and cover with paper towels.

Let the oil come back to 350ºF for the next batch! Remember, the oil cools as you cook. If you don't have a frying thermometer get one, guessing just don't get it! If the oil gets too hot turn the fire off, or lower, and let it cool to the right temperature. If the oil smokes you've probably ruined it. A thermometer prevents all of this trouble.

Note 1: I am lucky enough to be able to get corn flour from a wholesale distributor. A 20lb. sack costs about $5.00. You can also use a commercially sold fish fry mix which uses the same basic ingredients. It's mostly corn flour (read the ingredients), and comes seasoned and unseasoned. You can also mix corn meal and flour and that works okay too. Corn meal is coarser than corn flour, hence the name, "corn flour". Corn flour is pulverized corn meal.

Note 2: To keep the food warm put the oven on 200°F (or as low as it will go) and let it warm up about 15 minutes. Cover the legs with paper towels (not plastic wrap) or loosely with foil, turn the oven off, and put the pan in the oven. If you seal the pan with plastic wrap or foil the legs will become soggy. If you leave the oven on they will dry out too much. This only works for so long. After a few re-heats the legs will dry out anyway.

Warning: This is nothin' but good!

A special photo section follows from our trip with Captain Jack Payne of Jumping Jack Charters, Jack Charters both day an night fishing trips, Duck Hunting trips and would be glad to take you out in the Louisiana Swamp and introduce you to frogging, Louisiana Style. Jack can be reached at Home: (504) 888-0073 Cell: (504) 453-8383

Be sure and visit his website at http://www.rodnreel.com/jumpinjack/

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