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Bank on a good night of frogging: Learning on the way to a plate of fresh frog legs

A night of frogging turned different when the focus changed to catching frogs by hand on the bank.

A hand-caught bullfrog on an excellent night of frogging in the western suburbs.
Dale Bowman

We had two bullfrogs in the bag when K Frances Norris went sneaking along a bank to hook the next one and jumped three off the bank.

Strategy changed from focusing on eyes in the water hazards at a west suburban golf course Thursday night to spotting bullfrogs sitting on the bank.

The technique started with locking the light on them and walking toward their heads--they jump forward--then clamping your hand over them. The few positioned wrong for hand catching, we stayed with hook-and-line.

I met Jeff Norris years ago as a goose-hunting guide in the western suburbs. Since then, I’ve dabbled in other eclectic pursuits in the outdoors with him.

Hand-catching bullfrogs was the latest.

In Illinois, you need a fishing license to harvest bullfrogs, which may be taken by hook and line, gig, pitchfork, spear, bow and arrow, hand or landing net. Bullfrog season runs through October 15. Daily bag is eight.

Norris originally planned for us--himself, me and K Frances, his nephew and a stand-up comedian from northwest Indiana--to do traditional hook-and-line.

For that, Norris set up a treble hook (opened wider) on 10-pound Hi-Vis braided line (for visibility at night) on an old crappie rod, formerly 20 feet long down to 12.

``We’ve been using it to knock down wasp nests for the last five years,’’ Norris said.

A propane-powered golf cart was out for us when we arrived at 8:30 p.m. The first sweep of the light over a water hazard had Norris saying, ``Right there, eyes.’’

Eyes had it.

We took turns handling the rod, the light and the bag (an old decoy bag without holes and a counter string with colored slip beads attached).

It was the night of the Cubs first game with the Cardinals. Norris blared the game from a DeWalt battery-powered radio on the cart. Traffic on nearby roads mixed with pitches.

To reach bullfrogs farther out in the water, Norris duct-taped old rods to extension poles.

When I managed to hook one way back in vegetation by strategically swinging the treble enticingly, Norris said, ``That one is made for gigging.’’

With that one in the bag, we cracked Pilsner Urquells (``world’s first pilsner brewed the original way.’’) After that is when K Frances jumped the ones off the bank that changed our approach.

Norris handed me his beer and showed us how to hand catch the sitting frogs on the bank. He made it look easy.

``Famous Norris line, `Hold my beer, watch this,’ ‘’ K Frances quipped.

Jeff Norris sneaking up on a bullfrog and hand catching it on the bank during a frogging outing last week.
Dale Bowman

Most of bullfrogs were caught by hand, the rest with hook and line. Our lights swept past many smaller frogs in the water and on the bank, hope for frogging another year.

Norris clicked the radio off after the disastrous end. Spits of rain came just as we filled the last limit at 11:30 p.m. Walking back to the cart, we spotted three of the biggest bullfrogs of the night.

It was time.

For cleaning, Norris recommended ``pulling the pants down,’’ pulling the skin over the legs.

I fried my eight pairs of legs (flour dust, egg wash, Italian bread crumbs) Friday for our youngest and myself, then served it with a red-beet egg, mushroom, cherry tomato and spinach salad and paired them with chardonnay.

Frog legs on the plate, the end result of an outing Thursday night on a golf course.
Dale Bowman

ILLINOIS HUNTING: The first public open house on waterfowl regulations for 2021-25 is 5-8 p.m. Monday at Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area’s hunter check station. . . . Bowhunting for deer and turkey opens Tuesday.

STRAY CAST: Monday morning sports talk brought to mind ursine necropsy.