Monday sometimes gets a bad rap. Everyone has heard of blue Monday, the day you go back to work. But this year blue Monday has a green side. Monday, June 30 marks the opening of Missouri's frogging season.
Because midnight marks the start of a new day, froggers who begin a hunt at sunset with no frogs in possession (including at home in the freezer) can take one limit of frogs before midnight, then bag another after the witching hour. To do this legally, however, the first eight frogs must be kept separate from those taken after midnight.
The bullfrog (Missouri's state amphibian) and the green frog are unique among Missouri's game animals because they can be taken either on a hunting or a fishing permit.
If you have a hunting permit, you can take frogs with a .22 caliber or smaller rimfire rifle or pistol, pellet gun, longbow, crossbow, hand net or with your bare hands. With a fishing permit, you may use your hands or a hand net, a gig, a longbow or hook and line. Frog hunting is legal -- and most effective -- at night with an artificial light. Firearms may not be used to take frogs on Conservation Department areas.
The bullfrog is North America's biggest frog, measuring up to 8 inches all scrunched up and ready to jump. A good-sized bullfrog can weigh well over a pound, and much of that is legs. Green frogs are more modest-sized, topping out at about 4 inches long when sitting. Though not as large, their legs taste just like those of bullfrogs.
You can tell green frogs from bullfrogs by the fold of skin running along the sides of green frogs' bodies.
The daily and possession limits of eight and 16 bullfrogs and green frogs in the aggregate, respectively, sound liberal. However, it takes a hefty frog to provide more than a mouthful of food. Almost all the edible muscle is on the hind legs.
If you are lucky enough to obtain a limit of frogs, cut off the hind legs and remove the skin before cooking.
Pliers with close-fitting jaws come in handy for gripping the slippery skin.
When pressed about frog legs' flavor, frog fanciers sometimes say they taste like chicken. That may be true if you batter and fry frog legs as you would chicken drumsticks.
When sautéed in a little butter, however, frog legs have a mild flavor that hints of fish. Adding a little minced garlic to the pan and sprinkling with salt afterwards makes a delicious dish.
Pan-frying with any commercial breading also yields tasty results. Other recipes are found in Cy Littleby's Cookbook. This folksy compendium of wild cookery is available at the Missouri Department of Conservation's regional offices and conservation nature centers. You also can order the book from the Conservation Department's online Nature Shop (www.mdcnatureshop.com) for $3.50 plus shipping, handling and sales tax, where applicable, or with a toll-free telephone call to 877-521-8632.
It also is available at many Conservation Department offices and at conservation nature centers.
Male frogs fill the air above Missouri lakes and streams with their songs on summer nights.
The bullfrog's tune is a deep base chant that sounds something like "Jug-O-Rum, Jug-O-Rum." Green frogs are less musical. Their "songs" have been described as sounding like someone plucking loose banjo strings. The resulting sound can be a soft chuckle or a single, explosive bark.
The idea of beating other froggers to the punch induces a few outlaws to start the season early each year. You can help preserve the bullfrog bounty until opening day by calling the toll-free Operation Game Thief hot line, 800-392-1111, and reporting offenders.
For more information about catching frogs, visit mdc.mo.gov/conmag/2003/06/40.htm.