How to catch and cook bullfrogs
A DWR employee shares his best tips for catching and cooking invasive bullfrogs
By Ja Eggett
Lee Kay Public Shooting Range Facilities and Grounds Supervisor
It's the stuff that childhood daydreams are made of. Your buddy calls you up and says, "Hey, you wanna go catch some frogs?" That's exactly how my experience with bullfrogs in Utah started, only I wasn't a young boy. My son expressed interest in joining a youth group during a frog-catching activity, and we tagged along.
Most of the ponds and marshes along the Wasatch Front contain bullfrogs. A quick evening trip and some listening will reveal if you've found a spot where bullfrogs are present.
I asked the standard questions: what gear do I need to bring, what bait do I need, where are we going, and are the frogs any good to eat? During that first trip, we used a fishing pole with a small red-and-white bobber and a hook tied 6-8 inches from that. For bait, we used small marshmallows or pieces of nightcrawlers, and we fished on a private pond.
I've been on numerous "frogging" trips since then and have learned a few things that I hope can be helpful to others.
Invasive bullfrogs in Utah
Let's talk about bullfrogs in Utah. Native to the eastern U.S., we don't know when bullfrogs first arrived in Utah, but we do know that breeding populations have existed here since the early 1970s. Today they persist in many areas, including along the Wasatch Front and the Great Salt Lake marshes, which is where I have focused most of my frog-catching efforts. Bullfrogs are voracious predators that'll eat almost anything, including snakes, fish, toads and mice.
There is no limit and no season on bullfrogs in Utah. A license is not required to catch them, but because you will likely be using fishing gear — and might catch fish in the process of trying to catch frogs — you should have a fishing license while pursuing frogs.
IMPORTANT: It is unlawful to transport live bullfrogs. If you are transporting them away from the location where you catch them, they must be dead first. Also, do not leave any parts of the bullfrogs behind or discard parts of frog carcasses in waterbodies. They must be disposed of away from the water. If frog carcasses or parts are left where they were harvested — or thrown back into any waterbody — they could spread the amphibian infection known as Chytrid that harms our native amphibians.
I've tried a number of variations based on the bobber-hook combo. The ones that consistently work best include adding a grasshopper to one of the hooks or using a floating bass popper.
The largest of all North American frogs, bullfrogs can grow to a length of 8 inches or more and can weigh up to 1.5 pounds. So target the big ones — they have the most meat.
Where to find bullfrogs
Most of the ponds and marshes along the Wasatch Front contain bullfrogs. A quick evening trip and some listening will reveal if you've found a spot where bullfrogs are present. They breed from late spring through early summer, during which time you'll hear males call together in a chorus. Bullfrogs are typically green or gray-brown with brown spots and have easily identifiable circular eardrums — or tympanum — on either side of their heads. Based on how much they have spread, I think you could find them in many locations throughout the state.
Best catching methods
One of the first things I learned as I slowly bounced my red-and-white bobber along the edge of the weeds is that bullfrogs will eat pretty much anything. In fact, most frogs will pounce and gulp in the bobber. It was frustrating though because often, as soon as I pulled on it, the frogs would spit it out and my bobber and hook would come flying at me, only to get tangled in the weeds on the edge of the pond.
I rethought my strategy and soon ditched the marshmallow and started putting a hook directly on the top and bottom of the bobber. The next cast was a success. When the frog gulped the bobber, he also got hooked.
I've tried a number of variations based on the bobber-hook combo. The ones that consistently work best include adding a grasshopper to one of the hooks or using a floating bass popper. The bass popper works well when you can see the frogs, and they're a bit reluctant to gulp in the bait. It can be reeled in close and then used to "foul hook," or snag them.
We've even taken a few bullfrogs using archery gear while bowfishing for carp.
Bullfrogs for dinner
Now the burning question: how do they taste? I think they taste like chicken, but a little chewier. Others think they taste like fish. So if you like chicken and fish like I do, you'll love the taste of frog legs.
A quick search on the web reveals a bunch of delicious bullfrog recipes. We use a method that requires removing the skin from the legs. You can do this by cutting the skin around the frog's "waist" and then pulling the skin down, like taking off frog trousers. (There are good visuals of this step here.)
Next, cut the legs from the rest of the frog and cut off the feet. Place the frog legs in a marinade for about 5 minutes. We use buttermilk. Then roll them in a breading mix. This could be a fish fry batter, beer batter or a Shake 'n Bake-type seasoning. Then, fry the legs in hot oil. Make sure you let them cool for a bit before eating, but don't leave them out for too long. I prefer my frog legs warm. Bon app tite!
You can find additional information for catching bullfrogs in this Field and Stream article.