Harrumph! I heard the first bullfrog of the season a few nights ago, down by the catfish pond. It made me think of a night several years ago on the river, back in the days when we still had a kid living at home. I’d love to share it with you, because it involved taking a mud bath while frog gigging! ~Barbara Baird
“Mom, I’m getting another whiff of you,” complained my son, Alec, as he sat on the ice chest located in the middle of our canoe. I sat in the front of the canoe with trusty gig in hand, while my husband practiced the fine art of poling our craft into slews and other good froggy areas on the Meramec River. It was opening night of frog season.
An “eau-dee-slew” smell rose from my mud-clogged pores, a result of my second tumble into the muddy waters of the Maramec. We’ll get to that part later.
We met up early that evening with local outdoor enthusiasts Bill and Charlene Cooper, and their son, Cody. The Coopers, as usual, put us to shame with their state-of-the-art, hi-tech trolling motor on a camouflaged, flat-end canoe. They carried a precision-cut, water -jet crafted gig and sat on camo-comfort seats. Charlene also carried camera equipment to film the excursion into the dark, wet night-world of the frog. They had high-powered lights that were probably capable of signaling distress signs to aircraft.
We, on the opposite end of the gigging-gear spectrum, brought our previously-owned canoe, a homemade gig, an ice chest for me to sit on, and my husband’s Maglight. Oh, and we carried two freebie trash bags from the Conservation Department for frog storage. The Coopers used minnow buckets.
Since this was our son’s first time to gig, Bill and my husband gave him a quick primer on gigging before we embarked. From a distance the two men looked like two defensive-line coaches in the huddle, telling Alec how to hit and where to stick.
We put in after sunset, and soon parted company. The Coopers trolled on ahead. Meanwhile we spun around and around, as we already had hung the canoe up on a rock. My husband’s homemade pole lacked a few feet of length, and this made it very difficult to maneuver the canoe. He finally got into a rhythm of poling, and we were off.
To Alec’s credit, he gigged the first frog of the evening perfectly. A nice, swift clean stab, and the frog was ours. We peered at the bank while we moved slowly downstream. We looked in the grasses, around the fallen logs, and between the rocks. We spotted several frogs with small legs. We found some nice big ones, too.
The first tumble of the evening happened without notice. Usually, you get a second or two and you get to realize what’s going to happen. This was not the case. My husband shifted his weight in the back of the canoe, and my ice chest shifted quickly to the same side. We both fell out to the left side of the canoe, splashing my son.
He just laughed and asked if we were OK. We complained a little about bruising our tailbones, but other than that, and the fact that we were both wet to our necks, we were OK.
We worked the bank some more. We got into a slough, where the stink rose from the mud. Ooh, the frogs were singing sweet in there. My concentration level had spiked to high mode now, and I worked at keeping the beam of light on a particularly handsome bullfrog while my husband moved the canoe closer and closer, and Alec prepared for the strike.
But, alas, before Alec could even move the gig, I leaned over a little too far to my right and “plop.” I went for a swim in the thickest, gooiest, most obnoxious-smelling mud I’ve ever experienced.
Alec and my husband suffered a moment of shock, and when they found out that I wasn’t hurt— just stuck in the mud—they started laughing. Well, I had to admit, I looked like the monster from the lagoon.
We decided that it might be better if I gigged for a while. Having gigged for fish on the Osage last January, this frog gigging stuff came easy. Besides that, I’ve been out frogging 3 times now. Alec suffered from sitting downwind of my new scent.
For the next 2 hours, we worked the banks and I gigged a couple and missed a lot. Our collection of frogs would occasionally find a way out of the sacks. That made life interesting for a while, as the guys tried to catch the frogs. Alec wound up kicking one out of the canoe because it landed, “plop,” on his left foot, setting off his amphibious-kicking reflex.
By the time we met up with the Coopers a few hours later, we had 8 frogs and they had 10 frogs. When the evening was over, we had 6 frogs and they had 24 frogs.
At 1:30 a.m., as my son and husband cleaned frogs on the back stoop, my son commented that he was glad we didn’t catch our limit.
But, hey, we really caught our limit, and then some, of fun and of making memories. And, we’re going to try again—just as soon as we can sit for a few hours comfortably again.