Survival Skills: How to Gig Frogs

Somewhere between hunting and fishing lies the food gathering art of frog gigging. While gigging is typically portrayed as a southern avocation, plenty of northern marshes are home to frog spearing enthusiasts and some good sized frogs, too.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Not every amphibian is suitable for human consumption. Many North American toads have toxic glands in them or on them, and some frogs produce toxic secretions. Get a good field guide or go gigging with an experienced frog hunter to learn which frogs are good and which ones to avoid.

If you can stick to the genus Rana, and avoid the Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris) which has some toxicity to its skin, then you will avoid all of the bad tasting and diarrhea inducing frogs and toads. And if you are outside the continental US, avoid all colorful frogs as these bright colors are usually nature's warning sign. In the lower 48, the bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) is a great choice for its lack of toxins, size and flavor, boasting thighs as big and flavorful as chicken drumsticks!

Now that we know which frogs to go after, let's look at your tackle for gigging.

The spear of choice for many giggers is a 3- or 4-tined spear head with barbed points. These can be purchased from fishing tackle stores, or you can make your own if you know how to work metal. In a survival situation, you can create a gigging spear from a multi-branched sapling, which gives you both the spear shaft and the tines all in one piece. You'll want at least 3 tines, but 4 is better. If you are a crafty whittler, carve a barb just below the tip of each tine.

Keep these things in mind as you go out:
- Never go out gigging by yourself--it's less fun and there's no one to go for help in the event of an accident.
- If you are gigging from a johnboat or other watercraft, make sure the boat is stocked with Coast Guard approved safety equipment (PFDs, lights, and signaling equipment).
- Get a headlamp to help you see the frogs, as most gigging occurs at night.
- Always remember where your toes are, if you're standing in the water to gig.
- Be informed and obedient of the local hunting and fishing laws and the requirements for frog gigging. In my home state of Virginia, for instance, the bullfrog limit is 15 per day, and a hunting license--not a fishing license--is required.

Hit us with your best gigging story, or your favorite frog leg recipe, in the comments.

Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr