Jeff Finley will be with his family for his birthday today — trudging through the mud on the edge of local ponds.
Finley’s birthday falls on the opening day of frog season, and he’s in the habit of taking his three children afield with plans for frying up a batch of frog legs.
The Hartsburg resident lists the necessary preparations as bug repellant, a power nap, old clothes, batteries for the flashlights and freshly sharpened gigs.
Finley says his 6-year-old daughter, Claire, will hold one of the lights in her hand while sitting on his shoulders.
“You just shine the light, until you see a set of bright pink eyes, then you gig‘em,” said Cole Finley, 11. “I like to eat them. They taste like fish and chicken at the same time.”
Jeff Briggler, herpetologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said abundant spring rains mean a good outlook for frog season for the next few years.
Briggler bases his optimism on the number of tadpoles that were counted this year in different areas of the state. The legal limits this year are unchanged: eight frogs per day and a maximum of 16 in any one person’s possession. “That’s what we think the population could sustain,” Briggler said.
Frog hunting requires a fishing or hunting license; the season runs through Oct. 31.
“Most people gig them,” Briggler said. A gig is like a spear with multiple prongs on the end.
Frogs can also be caught by hand, which requires either license, but some use a .22-caliber firearm or a pellet gun. “As long as you aim for the body, the legs should be fine,” Briggler said.
The two species that can be hunted in Missouri are bullfrogs and green frogs. Bullfrogs, which are slightly larger, are the species most often hunted.
“The main concern is that people gig the correct two species,” Briggler said, noting there are species native to Missouri that are rare and can’t be harvested. The bullfrog and the green frog look similar, he said, which cuts down on the chance for mistakes.
“The frog population looks good,” Briggler said.
This is good news for Cole, who usually gigs two frogs per outing. Finley has his own measure of success. “My kids being able to catch a few,” he said.