Giggers eye bountiful 2008 bullfrog season

Ava, Ill. – With no wind on an otherwise silent night, Mike
Evans claims he can hear the call from a half-mile away.

That may be a boast.

It may not be, either. One thing Evans can certainly do is a
dead-on imitation of the bullfrogs he hunts. “Jug-o-rum,” Evans
croaked, lowering his neck, jaw and vocal chords. He spent a recent
June evening scouting southern Illinois ponds and strip mine pits,
searching for sights and sounds of the bullfrog, North America’s
largest frog, which yields a delicacy found in some of finest
restaurants – frog legs.

Bullfrog season opens June 15 in Illinois and runs through Aug.
31. The frogs can be taken by hand, fishing pole, pitch fork,
landing net, bow and arrow, spear or gig.

Froggers must have a fishing license, and the daily limit is
eight frogs.

Especially after a rainy spring like the current one Illinois is
experiencing, there is no shortage of places to find frogs. State
biologists expect that high water levels in many of the state’s
lakes and ponds will have little effect on the bullfrog. If
anything, an increase in the number of smaller “water holes” may
spread the population out.

“Bullfrogs can be abundant in almost any permanent body of
water, like farm ponds, lakes, rivers and streams and backwaters,”
Steve Pallo, DNR’s director of fisheries, said. “Many of these are
privately owned, thus permission from the owner is required. Also,
many areas are rather remote, and a combination of both of these
factors serve to protect good populations of bullfrogs.”

Pallo himself has spent many summer nights in search of
bullfrogs. He even taught his sons the basics of the sport.

“In my frogging days, I’d collect enough of the ‘bulls on a
couple of trips to a pond, and when the picking got slim, I’d move
on to another pond,” he said. “That way I kept up the interest of
my young sons (and me) and we left the remaining frogs to
repopulate the pond.

“We also use to hunt them with a bow and arrow,” Pallo added.
“Needless to say we left a lot of the frogs for the next trip(s)
using this method, as hitting such a small target was a real
challenge for us.”

Evans, who’s hunted bullfrogs for more than 40 years, said he
likes to go out a week or two ahead of season, “just to see where
the frogs are and how many there are,” he said. “This year will be
interesting because of all the rain we’ve gotten.”

Bullfrogging combines hunting with fishing and generally takes
place at night. The hunter approaches the water and opens his or
her ears for the sound of . . .”jug-o-rum.”

A three-pronged gig is the weapon of choice for most Illinois
froggers. Some choose to attach a 15- to 20-foot handle, making it
easier to sneak up on the croaking frog and into a position to make
an accurate stab.

Once the gig is hovered a few inches from the target, it is
thrust forward, preferably hitting just behind the frog’s head.

But before the hunt reaches that point, a bright flashlight is
needed to spot the frogs along the water’s edge.

Bullfrogs are green to yellow above with random mottling of
darker gray. They have a large external eardrum. Their underbelly
is white.

Illinois bullfrogs generally grow to a maximum of 1 foot in
size, though the average from is 8 to 9 inches long. Most hunters
seek the frogs for their meat, especially from the legs and
back.

No size limit applies.

In his pre-season scouting trips, Evans has seen – make that
heard – what seems to be a healthy population of bullfrogs.

“Compared to past years, I’ve heard a lot of croaking,” he said.
“Are there a lot of big frogs, or are they small? One thing I’ve
learned is that you can’t judge the size of a bullfrog by the size
of his voice.”

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