As May recently turned into June, frogging season re-opened across the state, offering an opportunity for a well-spent, cool night searching for a Louisiana delicacy.
All that’s needed is a fishing license.
The season kicked off after a two-month hiatus in April and May, which are the only two months frog hunters cannot harvest the critters because of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries restrictions.
“The regulation was mainly put in place to prevent over-harvesting during breeding season,” said Jeff Boundy, LDWF state herpetologist. Pig frogs and bullfrogs traditionally breed in April and May.
Frogging has incurred a “cult” following, if you will, among hunters who rarely miss a June opening night. Perhaps it’s the thrill of spending a starry night cruising the bayous, or the thought of a plateful of delectable, fried frog legs.
Whatever it may be, would-be froggers should be aware of what areas they can access and all necessary regulations. Of course, knowledge of the quarry is advantageous as well.
Pig frogs and bull frogs have different length requirements on public land that governs harvest, while private-land hunters do not have to adhere to such length requirements.
Frogs are measured “from the tip of the muzzle to the posterior end of the body between the hind legs,” according to the 2014 LDWF fishing regulation manual. Bullfrogs must be at least five inches long, while pigs frogs must be three inches or longer.
For the casual onlooker, it might be hard to decipher between the two frogs. Two ways to tell are sight and sound. A pig frog’s snout has a more prominent point and contains none of the markings or black splotches on their backs like a bullfrog. Boundy also advised listening to their vocalizations to tell them apart, which can also help to locate them in the dark.
“A pig frog sounds like a pig; it’s kind of an odd-sounding thing,” Boundy said. “But, there aren’t many records of them around Baton Rouge. They are over in the lower (Atchafalaya) Basin, out toward Spanish Lake and in the coastal marshes where it opens up more.”
Frogs can be spotted near or in the water with high-powered lights. The most popular method of capture is simply grabbing them by hand, though gigs and other frog-catching devices that puncture the skin are allowed.
Not all waterways and public areas are open to frogging, especially in the Atchafalaya Basin. Canals can snake through private property, where trespassing could be an issue and thus frogging would be illegal.
It’s best to consult the LDWF or the Office of State Lands about presumptive public destinations.
There are no statewide bag limits on the number of frogs hunters can catch at one time, except on select public land, so over-harvesting could be an issue in some areas without limits. But Boundy said the frog population in Louisiana isn’t in any danger.
“Bull frogs will put 100,000 to 200,000 eggs (each) in one mass into the water,” he said. “So there’s a lot of extra frogs out there.”
Honing in on specific public properties, one may find some don’t allow frogging at all, or have certain stipulations.
Salvador/Timken WMA, located in St. Charles Parish near the northwestern shore of Lake Salvador, has been historically closed to frog hunters in an attempt to prevent nighttime poaching of deer or other game species, said Shane Granier, LDWF biologist manager for southeastern Louisiana management areas and for the coastal and non-game resources division.
However, effective June 1, the management area opened for limited nighttime activity — frogging and recreational fishing — until Aug. 15. The experimental season includes a possession limit of 50 frogs per vessel and size limits concurrent with state laws.
The nighttime season on the WMA is set to close just before the arrival of blue-winged teal in August and September, with the accompanying hunting season, and peak nesting season for colonial birds such as egrets and herons.
“When you have people, at night, running around in boats, there will be some level of disturbance from engine noise and additional activity,” Granier said. “So we had those two basic things to protect.”
The shortened season, Granier said, will work to give the public additional outlets to enjoy themselves among the wild beauty of Louisiana and to get a chance to bring home a few tasty frog legs — goals all frog hunters seem to have in common.
“We are trying to give the most opportunity to the most people,” he said. “From a management standpoint, we are trying to provide public access and better utilization of resources.”