Frog-Gigging: A Redneck Litmus Test

By far the tastiest of all amphibians.

If you’re looking for a reliable test of whether someone is an honest-to-God, redbug-scratching, outboard-driving redneck, then you need to look past the rebel flags, Mossy Oak camo and four-wheel-drive pickups. All of those things can be had for price. Instead, just ask the person if they’ve ever been frog-gigging.

A pretender will just get a puzzled look on his face. But the real-deal redneck will respond with something like, “We got about 50 on the river week before last.”

Frog legs just happened to be my father’s favorite food ever, so he had a vested interest in teaching my brothers and me how to find, kill and clean them.

The concept is pretty simple: Get a boat, light and a gig. When it’s good and dark, ease along the banks of a pond, lake or river. Shine the light until you see their eyes. Move close enough to see the whole body and spear the frog. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

My ancestral frogging grounds.

Do this accurately about 25 to 30 times and you’ve got enough frog legs to feed a large family. However, just because the concept is simple doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

For one thing, humans aren’t the bullfrog’s only predator. In fact, they’re like the french fries of the swamp. Just about everything that eats anything also eats frogs. Included in that list are gators and snakes (winners of nature’s “Least Likely to Cuddle” prize.) So it pays to watch where you put your feet and hands. And even though it can be hot at night in a Florida swamp, I don’t recommend jumping in the water to cool off.

Another issue is that spearing a frog with a gig can be harder than you think. You want a long gig pole so that you can get to the frogs in hard to reach spots. But what you gain in reach, you lose in steadiness. That’s especially true on a small boat with a couple of people in it.

Speaking of extra people, it helps to have someone with you to hold the light. Headlamps are nice and even an ordinary flashlight will work, but with a spotlight you will find more frogs and you won’t have to guess whether that’s a water snake or a cottonmouth on the branch you’re drifting toward.

Even after you’ve speared the frog, things can still go wrong. You might think he’s dead, but he’s really just waiting for you to take him off the gig. If you aren’t careful doing that, he’ll jump right back in the water. And it’s generally considered poor form to gig the same frog twice.

Cleaning the frog is pretty straight forward. YouTube even has several videos on the subject. You just need a sharp knife and some catfish skinners to pull the skin down over the legs. (It’s like pants-ing a leprechaun).  Some folks will snip the feet off first, but purists eat them too.

The frog has one last act before he’s done: His legs might move a little once they’re in the hot frying pan. Don’t worry, though, at this point he probably won’t jump out and run off.

Lots of people eat frog legs, but for the overwhelming majority of them, the story begins with tender, golden-fried hunks of white meat, plated well and served with a crisp white wine.

It’s only the select few who have made the journey into the swamp and taken the frog on his home turf.

Those are genuine rednecks.

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