As I closed the distance between myself and a giant south Georgia bullfrog, I couldn’t help but grin. Thanks to my kayak’s super-quiet approach, the frog had no idea of his soon-to-be fate. My head lamp that illuminated him wasn’t even needed due to a full moon that only the good Lord could make shine so bright. As I closed within a few mere feet from the frog, I slowly moved my gig head to about 8 inches away. Without warning, I slammed the gig home before the frog could even flinch. Then as I put the frog in my cooler, I didn’t even have time to celebrate because there was another frog croaking, calling me in that direction.
There’s something about a warm night out on the water gigging frogs. I’ve done it off and on throughout the years both wading and out of small boats. I will be the first to admit that doing it out of a kayak never came close to crossing my mind.
When my Uncle Tim told me about his new-found venture of frog gigging out of a kayak, to say the least I was shocked. As he continued to give details, I just had to give it a try myself, and boy he didn’t let me down. Since switching my frog gigging from boat to kayak, my numbers have gone way up and my expense has gone down. Now that’s the perfect combination!
I’m sure many of you have gigged frogs at least once, but for those who haven’t, here’s a little background information that should have you gigging a mess of frogs in no time. There’s no limit to the number of frogs that you can gig at one time or any restrictions that are placed on frogs in Georgia whatsoever. Frog gigging is definitely a warm water sport. The experts say from late May through early September are the best times. I say if it’s a warm night, I don’t care what month it is, you can about bet the bullfrogs will be lining the banks singing to their lady friends. A great time to go is right after an early evening rain, maybe around 10 or so at night.
Usually, two frog giggers work together when gigging out of a jonboat. One will work a spotlight, and the other will gig frogs. With a kayak, you can easily manage everything by yourself. With the aid of a head lamp, your hands are free to gig. That said, you should never ever go gigging by yourself. Too many things could go wrong at night on a swamp or lake.
We like to use two kayaks to work opposite banks simultaneously. This is an effective way to gig frogs out of any body of water.
If you already own a kayak, a great thing about the kayak method is there is very little required to get started frog gigging. A basic gig around 6 feet long with a three-prong head will suffice. Really though, any gig will do fine as long as the barb end is sturdy. Remember, lots of frogs will be sitting on roots and logs along the bank, therefore a flimsy gig head will quickly bend or worse, it will break. Gig prices vary, but lots of good ones are available for less than $20. If you have an old broom handle, a gig head can be purchased from Walmart.com for as little as $3 and easily attached to your broom stick. Make sure to always bring at least two in case you break a gig.
Your next piece of equipment that is equally as important as a good gig is a head lamp. Right off I’m gonna tell you, don’t cut any corners here. I don’t care how good your gig is or how nice your kayak is, without light you can’t see. I favor the new lights that operate for many hours on a couple batteries. Just be sure to invest in some good batteries, and always bring a few spares. As far as lumens go, I would recommend at least 150, and a quality 250 lumen LED headlamp can be purchased for as little as $25.
The last major item needed is a kayak. Before I jump out into the great unknown and recommend a particular brand or style, let me just say this. You have to buy what works best for you, your needs, and most importantly your budget. That said, for any type of fishing or gigging, I prefer a sit-on-top model. These put you a little above the water, giving you a better view of the action. They are also easier to enter and exit. A good kayak new will cost you from $250 all the way up to $2,500. It would be my recommendation to stay on the shallow end of that pool, because dollars spent will only buy so much success, especially in the frog business. Along the same line for those who don’t want to invest in a kayak, a small jonboat will work well, also. If you choose to go about it the jonboat way, just refrain from using a trolling motor, and try to use gentle paddle strokes to slip up on a frog.
The only bad boat for gigging is one that never leaves the yard.
Now that we’ve discussed equipment, the next topic would be when and where to find frogs. The best month in my book to gig a frog would probably be August. You can count on every night being warm and muggy, just what a bullfrog likes. Other months are great, from April all the way to the middle October in the southern part of the state.
As far as where to go, that can be a small farm pond, a giant reservoir and any creek or river. What I look for in early summer are areas with lots of tadpoles. I also like banks with lots of roots and cuts, anywhere a big frog is likely to post up on a hot summer night.
When you get on the water in your kayak, there are two sure-fire ways to find an ol’ Georgia bullfrog. The No. 1 most obvious way is to scour the banks with your head lamp until you spot the frog’s yellowish-green eyes. The other way that’s nearly as effective is to just listen. A frog will lead you right to him every time.
With a kayak, the major advantage is no noise, and most importantly no motor vibration or wake from your boat. Like I said earlier, an effective technique is to fish with a partner and cover both sides of the river at one time. I like to paddle upstream when I start gigging, and I will move quickly scanning the banks as I go. When you go faster, a few frogs will hit the water before you can spot them, but you will also be able to sneak up on more unsuspecting frogs. The good news is the ones you miss will most certainly be back on the banks as you drift back downriver later in the evening.
For frog giggers who have all night, setting limb lines on your way upriver is a great idea. As you work back down and check lines along the way, you will likely be rewarded with some nice catfish to fry along with your frog legs.
As you drift along, use your light to carefully scan the bank, paying close attention to every little nook because those hiding place may be holding a jumbo bullfrog.
I like ponds this time of year because most are low. This results of 6 inches or a foot of bare mud in front of the bank is that giant frogs will sit right on the edge, making a super-easy target.
As you spot your quarry, try to use very gentle strokes to make your move. Once I’m within 15 feet, I lay my paddle down and grab my gig. Ideally, it’s best when you can approach a frog from slightly behind. Truth be told, usually you’re not able to do that due to current, boat position or a myriad of other factors. So, just make the quietest possible approach, and move slowly. When you get within range, keep your light on the frog, and move your gig to within a foot of the frog. Then slam it home. More than likely this will result in a frog in the cooler.
New giggers always ask where they should hit a frog. My answers is always the same—wherever you can stick him! If I’m able to aim, I like to get them in the middle of the back above their hind legs and below their head. This normally results in a good quick kill. The best thing to do is take your time on the approach, and then make a quick move with your gig. Much like fishing or hunting, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But the more you do it, the better you get. When you gig a frog, remember to grab a hold of him before you pull your gig out. If not, that frog may jump or squirm into the water wounded and be lost. Another thing I like to do when I get one is to use my head lamp to carefully scan the bank around the frog because in this business it’s easy to gig multiple frogs on the same bank.
To store frogs on my kayak, I like a good soft-sided cooler with a zipper. This takes up little space and will keep the frogs nice and cool on those hot summer nights. A few frozen water bottles will keep the frogs fresh. I like to keep it unzipped just enough that I can drop a frog in. This helps keep frogs that are wounded from jumping out. This is an extremely common occurrence due to big frogs being so darn tuff. Some people swear by using an old pillowcase to store their frogs. Practically anything will work. Just make sure it’s escape proof, and something you don’t mind getting a little dirty.
When you get the frogs home, usually in the wee morning hours, it’s time to clean ’em. If you choose to get some shut eye first, be sure to ice the frogs down well and clean them as soon as you get up. If not, they will go bad much faster than fish or other animals.
For those who have never cleaned frogs, it is simple to do. A knife and some good catfish skinners are the only tools needed. If it’s a smaller bullfrog, just skin him from his waist down, separate the legs and cut off the feet. If he’s a giant, you can skin him from the neck back much like a squirrel. If you don’t feel confident, there are a million YouTube videos that can have you cleaning frogs like a pro in no time. After cleaning, the frogs can be frozen, or my personal choice stuck in the refrigerator for an afternoon cookout!
I can guarantee there’s nothing quite like slipping up on a giant Georgia bullfrog under a full moon on a hot summer night. Just do me a favor as you’re out on the water with your partner. Turn your head lamps off, sit your paddles down, and take a second to appreciate all God’s made. That’s what it’s really all about, and when you hear one croaking… turn your light on and go get him!