Sunday, September 18, 2011

Nightcrawler Hunting and Frog Gig-gin - Sunday Reminiscing

Carring on the family tradition with my youngest boy Chris (2 years old) Cane pole fishing 

Nightcrawler Hunting and Frog Gig-gin - Sunday Reminiscing

I think I was born to be a fisher woman and due to the fact that my three older brothers held no interest in the sport, I became my dads little fishing buddy at the ripe old age of two. Since then, I've enjoyed years of family fishing trips filled with memories and a load of fun fish tales all leading to my deep rooted love of the sport!

I have so many fond memories of fishing with my family but a few stand out in my mind like they happened just yesterday.  This tale is spun from fishing expeditions that yearn to be retold. 

Nightcrawler Hunting

On any given summer evening, prior to a weekend fishing trip you could find my three brothers and me standing in the lush street medians between Wood and Cascade Streets in downtown Colorado Springs.  Armed with our flash lights and various worm containers we would comb through the manure laden soil for a host of plump nightcrawlers.  As with any hunter I'd done my research before heading out to capture the elusive nightcrawler!

After years of hands-on field experience, I found that the soil was darker and richer the closer you got to the mountains unlike the clay soil where we lived further East of town. Thus, the soil closer to the downtown area bred bigger and better nightcrawlers.  

photo source

Nightcrawlers are a form of earthworm. Prized primarily for use as fishing bait, nightcrawlers are generally known as either Canadian or European. Canadian nightcrawlers are the larger of the two, measuring up to 14 inches (35.6 cm) when fully extended. Fishermen enjoy the Canadian worm more because of its size. It can be easily secured to a fish hook, and stays lively while submerged in water for up to 5 minutes. The Canadian nightcrawler is used for catching largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, carp, trout, catfish, sunfish, walleye, and other freshwater fish. The Canadian nightcrawler will not survive in temperatures above about 65 °F (18.3 °C). Therefore, bait shops must keep them refrigerated and attention must be given to ensure that the worms are not left to rest in the hot sun while fishing.
Source Wikipedia:

The freshly clipped grass filled our heads with its green scent, the earth gaving off its rich aroma.  Giddy with anticipation, we just knew that the black, rich soil would bring forth hundreds of fat, juicy nightcrawlers.  Stealthily, we would move among the trees and bushes shining our flashlights just in time to glimpse our prey! Almost without breathing and in a lightening move, we would dive and grab whatever portion of the unassuming worm that lay basking in the moonlight; often times coming up empty handed or with half or a quarter of the creature. Hunting nightcrawlers was endless fun!

One thing to note about nightcrawlers...although they have especially tiny brains they are pretty smart when it comes to not being captured! Smooth and fast, a nightcrawler can be back in his muddy home in nothing flat. You have to be patient and cunning to bring home a bucket full of these wriggly worms.

Interesting fact: Nightcrawlers have the ability to regenerate themselves if torn in half, much like their cousins the common earthworm. Now, wouldn't that be an awesome special talent to posses? The good news, fish are not picky when it comes to eating half or whole worms!

I believe fishing is the sum of its many perfect parts! Nightcrawler hunting is only the beginning of the beautiful cycle.  There’s learning how to bait a hook with those gigantic worms. Endless hours of practice casting without hooking oneself, or the trees or your brothers and then finally, mastering the patience to wait long enough for the fish to strike. Of course, our parents taught us that whatever we caught or hunted and killed had to be gutted, cooked and eaten. At that point the sum of the parts became whole, leading to the culmination of fresh pan fried trout by the campfire. You see, all my favorite memories lead me right back to food!!
It doesn't matter if I'm fly fishing a stream, stitting in a boat on a peaceful glacier lake or deep sea fishing; I'm a fisher woman at heart!

Frog Gig-gin

One hot summer my family got together with cousins, aunts and uncles to do some much loved fishing for Brown and Cutthroat Trout. Our favorite place to catch these beauties was in the San Juan River in New Mexico. Miles and miles of quality water teaming with 8-15 pound trout was our playground. A delicious dinner awaited us after a day spent in the sun; our coolers always full to the brim even after eating our share at the campsite. Packed in ice chests for the ride home, the remainder was either frozen or smoked for later consumption.

As we made our way down the fifteen mile river we began planning our evening meal. We made a significant decision that has burned this particular memory into my mind forever. We decided to add frog legs to our dinner of pan fired trout. I've cooked and eaten frogs legs but had never gigged for them until that night. So after a long day of fishing we got ready to go frog gigging. Luckily, my cousin’s son Shane was a master "frog gig-ger".

I was in my early twenties and wearing my famous fishing attire; camo pants, green cotton top, brown leather work boots and a straw hat. Shane was six years old, wearing a giant cowboy hat that dwarfed his tiny body, stomping around in his pointed cowboy boots and tossing rocks into the river, in between being scolded by his father to stop before he scared off all the fish!

Shane was so excited to teach me how "real frog gig-gin" was done. It was dusk when he finally took me by the hand and led me to a brackish pond just a few hundred yards from our deep blue fishing hole. As we approached the pond we could hear a chorus of croaking sounds. The voices of hundreds of frogs gathered together for a night full of insect eating and whatever else frogs do in the wild.

I had already tied a fly to my fishing rod while there was still some sunlight, so I was prepared with the correct bait to catch those yummy frogs. Shane flipped his miniature rod like the seasoned master he was and deftly caught his first green frog. He said, "See, dat's ho it’s done". I followed suit and together we bagged about thirty slippery frogs.

I've never been squeamish about catching and killing fish but by about the twenty fifth frog, I started taking notice of how cute their big brown eyes were and how lovely a shade of green their skin. Something ominous began to nag at the back of my mind.

I've killed and cleaned many fish in my day but never a frog, so on the ride back to our camp it occurred to me that someone was going to have to kill the frogs before I could cook them and I really didn't want that person to be me!! I've never been queasy but watching the frogs wriggle around on the bed of the truck gave me a bit of a chill.

It was dark by the time we got back to camp so my cousins got the fire going and left the frog killing up to me and this very deft six year old boy….Really?

It was kind of surreal as I watch Shane heft the heavy laden bag of frogs from the truck and carry it to the front bumper where the head lights shown brightly. I saw his tiny arm shoot up and motion me over to where he was kneeling. He looked me square in the eye and said..."dis is ho ya kill dem der frogs"! At that moment, I think I swooned a little.

I stood there mesmerized as he reached into the bag and pulled out a plump green frog. He grabbed the frog by both its back legs, swung his arm behind his back like he was about to throw a fast ball and slammed the head of the frog onto the bumper of the truck!

I got a lot dizzy and found myself looking for a place to sit down. Shane then calmly stated, "now dats ho ya kill dem der frogs!" "Wanna do some?" In a weak voice, I declined his invitation and I thanked him kindly. I told him how nice a job he was doing and to please feel free to continue while I got the rest of dinner started. For what seemed like a millennium he repeated this process until all the frogs lay dead waiting to be skinned and cooked.

Needless to say, I cooked dem der frogs but didn't eat one! 

Picture of Everglades Frog's Legs Recipe

Everglades Frog's Legs

Recipe courtesy Jesse Kinnon, 2011
Show: Food Network Specials  Episode: Cooking Channel: Hook, Line & Dinner (Miami The Everglades)
Next weeks post...maybe I'll make you some frogs legs? Until then here's a recipe from the Food Network

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  1. I wonder how the frogs taste....

    Spoon and Chopsticks

  2. S&P, They taste very good, much like chicken. I prefer them fried!

  3. A beautiful post! I enjoyed reading your stories! I have never tried frog meat before, even though the Chinese are fond of eating them, they say, it taste like chicken, only better! Frog meat are quite common over here, usually cooked in congee or stir-fried with dried chilies and cashew nuts! But I can never bring myself to eat it, especially after I've seen how they slaughter them at the market!
    So I don't cook them at home! My hubby does eats them, he says they are good! So he would have them outside! The Chinese believe that frog meat have medicinal properties and is healthy. But I guess, I'm just not a 'frog-person'! :0)

  4. Joy, Frogs legs are not my favorite menu choice either! lol! I agree with your husband that they taste a lot like chicken. I think I just have to rid my mind of the frogs image before I can eat it. Very much like when I eat to eat them but if I think on it too long I gross myself out and have to stop!

    I shudder to think how they are killed in your market...

  5. Hi Rebecka...I love your blog and am following you too. Great writes and I find them interesting ! Great post !

    I love those fried frog legs...over here in Malaysia it is a delicacy. We cook them in porridge or stir fry with ginger and scallion...yummy !

  6. OMG, I'm impressed! I thought eating frog legs is an Asian thing. Hahaha! Well done, Rebecka!

    Thks so much for adding me in your list of friends, sweetie! Toast to friendship & happy blogging!

  7. I really enjoyed your story, Rebecka. It really shocked me the first time I saw those huge night crawlers in my yard here in MN. The worms we find back in the old country are tiny compared to these guys. I remember hooking them to catch fresh wter prawns back while I was a kid. You won't catch me doing that today! Haha!

    Gosh are one brave gal! Frogs...oh my! Kung boa frogs are easily found in Asia but I would not seek them out today. I guess I'm not as adventurous as I age...hehe!

  8. Elin, I would love to try Malaysia style frogs legs. Ginger and scallions sound delicious! Thanks for visiting and leaving your sweet comment!

    Blackswan, Thank you!! I'm so happy to meet lovely bloggers like yourself. I look forward knowing you better too!

    Biren, You're too funny! Kung Boa frogs sound kinda big! I can see why you might not want to go out looking for them!

    If I could get you up in the mountains I bet I could talk you to do some fresh water fishing and maybe even some night crawler hunting!! I would bring a bottle of wine or maybe something stronger to make it more bearable for you!! lol! We would have a blast!


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