Frogging is a specialized sport. Even though frogs’ eyes shine in the dark, they can be hard to spot, especially if the frog is partially shielded by water lilies or sitting on the bank behind a bunch of brush.
So a good light is critical.
No self-respecting, serious frogger would go afield nowadays with a wimpy 6-volt headlight hooked to a square lantern battery.
Corey Crochet uses a light similar to what many other Atchafalaya Basin froggers use. They are built with a plastic hard hat, a sealed beam bulb, an aluminum funnel, a toggle switch, electrical wires, a pair of alligator clamps and some small screws or nuts and bolts.
A hole is cut in front of the hard hat, into which is inserted the funnel that has had its small end sawn off.
After the funnel is secured to the hat, electrical wire is cut to the desired length. The wire should be at least long enough to extend from the boat’s 12-volt battery to its bow, where the frog grabber will work. Some prefer the wire to be long enough to allow the grabber to get out on the bank.
One end of the wire is inserted through the hard hat and funnel and secured to the light bulb. The light bulb is seated in the funnel and held in place with screws or nuts and bolts through holes drilled appropriately in the funnel.
A toggle switch is inserted in a small hole drilled in the helmet, and one of the wires is interrupted to be connected to the toggle switch. After alligator clamps are attached to the other ends of the wires, the light — commonly just called a “seal beam” by Basin froggers — is ready to go.
The choice of light bulb, properly named a “sealed beam lamp” is very important. GE 4405 or 4405 H (halogen version) are aircraft landing light bulbs and are the best. They throw a powerful, relatively narrow beam that light up frogs’ eyes 30 yards away and allow the light to be used for nighttime boat navigation, as well.
Other bulbs, such as the GE 4412, are miniature automobile lights and throw a diffuse, broad light that lights up a large area but does not penetrate distance well.
Many sealed beam lights are made by hand by local residents of the Atchafalaya Basin area who are good with their hands. They are sold one at a time by word of mouth.
Crochet noted that they can also be purchased at many local bait and tackle shops and hardware stores.
“I know the Pierre Part Store has them,” he said, “but then again, they have almost anything.”
For those unfamiliar with it, the Pierre Part Store is an old-timey general merchandise store gone wild. The store sells everything from groceries to lumber and hardware to washing machines to gardening supplies to fishing equipment — even crawfish traps and pirogues.
It’s well worth a visit, even as a casual tourist, to the tiny fishing community after which the store is named.
After you’ve caught the frogs, you have to keep them. Wet frogs are slippery, and all frogs are agile and powerful. Whatever you put them in will have to be opened to add more frogs; when a lid is opened, every frog in the container instantly jumps out.
And a loose frog is a gone frog.
They are strong, too, and can find the smallest opening to exploit to make their escape.
“They are Houdinis about getting out of things,” Crochet said.
Years ago, the container of choice was a burlap sack that had to be opened and re-tied for each frog. It was slow and allowed a lot of escapes.
That led to lots of froggers making “frog boxes.”
These were either large wood and hardware cloth boxes built with spring-loaded trap doors, or smaller wooden frames with spring-loaded doors, that could be tied into the mouths of burlap sacks.
Crochet uses neither. Rather, he keeps his frogs in inexpensive, metal baskets often used by bream fishermen to store their catches. Because they are collapsible, empty baskets take up little room.
Two spring-loaded trap doors — one on the top and one on the bottom of each basket — make adding frogs without losing the ones already in the basket a snap.