Frogs are an often overlooked bait choice. But, when shopping for other lures, you’ll often see those that look like frogs. This begs the question, what can you catch with a frog? By and large, the biggest target with fishing with frogs is largemouth bass. Channel catfish, pike, and muskies will eat frogs too. There’s one important consideration for frog bait that we’ll cover first, but then we’ll move on to how to catch frogs, how to keep them alive, how to rig them, and what techniques to use once you’ve got them on the hook.
There’s one really important thing about fishing with frogs as bait that needs to be discussed before we delve into anything else. A disease, caused by a chytrid fungus known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has been ravaging frog and salamander populations all over the world. It is the most destructive pathogen – of any animal – in history and it’s killing frogs faster than their populations can recover. It’s so bad that at least 90 species have gone extinct and over 500 species around the world are headed in that direction.
Unfortunately, the two main industries that fuel the spread of this devastating disease are fishing and the pet trade. The tiny aquatic frogs found at most commercial pet stores are major carriers of this fungus. Avoid fishing with them or releasing them into the wild at all costs. Even if they’re dead, they can shed the spores from this fungus into the water. Since the spores can swim, they’ll likely infect your local frogs and amphibians. The best source for bait frogs are frogs that are already living in the area where you plan to fish. Help stop the spread of this disease by being a responsible angler.
National Geographic has more info about the disease here.
How to Catch Frogs
The best time to find frogs is during the spring mating season. The frogs, especially the spring peepers, make a lot of noise, looking for mates. So, you can follow your ears to find where they’re hanging out. The closer you get to the frogs though, the quieter they’ll get, and the faster they hop away. The trick is to extend your reach with a net. Start with a six-foot pole and duct tape it to a fishing net. Obviously, the holes in the net have to be small enough for the frog not to hop through. If you can’t find one with a tight enough weave, you can cut a piece of minnow seine and fit it to the hoop. When the frogs are particularly dense, you can snag a few in one go.
To DIY a net, check out the Valley City Frog Jump page.
How to Keep Frogs Alive
Catfish will eat a dead frog, but if you’re fishing for bass, you need a live one. Depending on how early you get up to go frog hunting, you may need to keep them for a little while. Frogs eat insects, so the mealworms or crickets you can buy at the store work well. Try not to handle them too much or stress them out. Too much stress will literally kill a frog, as will too much heat. Store them in a dark area at room temperature, not in the fridge. You don’t need to give them a lot of water or moisture to hop around in and you can keep a dozen or so live frogs together in a small cardboard box or basket.
How to Rig Frogs
There are two schools of thought when it comes to where to hook the frog for the best effect. Some people like to put the hook through the frog’s bottom jaw. Others prefer to hook the frog through the fat part of the leg where it meets the body. With the latter technique, it’s important to give the fish a little more time to get the frog down. Bass normally strike at the frog head first. However, they can come at your bait in all sorts of ways. I’ve heard of a bass knocking a frog up into the air with its tail and then swallowing the dazed frog when it hits the surface coming back down. There are a lot of artificial frog lures on the market, which seem to work equally as well as the live version.
For rigging with artificial frogs, check out this Tackle Warehouse article.
How to Fish with Frogs
The best places to cast your frog are natural areas where the fish would expect to find them hopping around. This means lilypads, grass mats, and areas with floating vegetation are ideal. Since you can expect to encounter a lot of snags, equip yourself with weedless hooks and braided line. The idea is to get the frog to stay on the vegetation at the top of the water. So, there’s no need to add any weights or sinkers. A high-speed baitcasting reel is ideal for frog fishing.
Once you’ve found a patch of shady, vegetated area, it’s time to cast. Cast out to the area you’ve chosen and let the bait sit there for a moment before retrieving. You’re going to retrieve moderately fast, while still trying to mimic an injured frog. If it’s moving too fast, the bass will wait for easier prey. Start on top of the mat or lilypads, hop across, and then pause when you get to a space in the water. Pause and jump briefly along your retrieve to convince the fish. If you bring the frog back and nobody’s bitten, cast again in the same spot another time.
Frogs can be a fun alternative to other lures when fishing for bass and other top feeders. It takes a little bit different technique, but it’s easy to get the hang of. Watching the bass explode on your frog is an exciting way to change up your routine. So, go out there, be safe, and above all, have fun!