In Pursuit of Jumpin' Jack Splash
Frogs are mysterious creatures. They inhabit places humming with mosquitoes, yet thousands of Missourians visit such places—in the dark— to pursue them. In spite of their oozy haunts and slimy skin, these amphibians find a place on the menus of five-star restaurants. Can the ounce or two of flesh on their legs really account for frogs’ popularity?
Here is my theory: Frogs are the legendary “Fountain of Youth.” That’s right; Ponce de Leon waded right past the object of his quest without a second look. It took someone more interested in fun than fame to recognize that tramping around in shallow water at night chasing frogs brings out the 6-year-old in us.
Frogging and giggling go together like mud puddles and mud pies. You might even experience the urge to skip instead of walk. If you have never tapped this fountain of youth, read on. Here is everything you need to know to join the Ever-Youthful Fraternity of Froggers.
Prizes, Sizes and Venues
Missouri is home to two delicious members of the hopping tribe that may legally be harvested for the table. By far the most coveted is the bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana). Size is its primary virtue. The bullfrog is North America’s largest native frog. A real monster can measure 8 inches all scrunched up and ready to jump. When it springs into action, you get a fleeting look at the real attraction, 7 to 10 inches of legs.
The other game species is the green frog (Rana clamitans melanota). Its meat tastes the same as the bullfrog’s, but this species tops out at just 4 inches from nose to vent. Although they provide less meat, a possession limit of 32 petite frog legs is enough to justify getting in touch with your inner child.
Almost anyplace with enough water to float a canoe is likely to harbor at least a few frogs. Places that thaw early and freeze late generally have larger frogs, but you can find decent frog populations in farm ponds and huge reservoirs, creeks, drainage ditches and rivers, sloughs, marshes and swamps statewide.
With so many options, how do you choose? Scouting is as simple as visiting potential venues just after dark and listening for the throaty “jug-o-rum, jug-o-rum,” of mature male bullfrogs. The green frog’s call is just as distinctive, consisting of one to four “bonks!” They sound like someone plucking a banjo string that is