Outdoors: Bullfrog season has arrived

Oliver Hilbert is shown on a fishing trip at Shadow Lake in Papillion in Sarpy County. He is holding an American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus). Kurrus, May 26, 2017. Copyright NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The Nebraska bullfrog season will start Aug. 15 and runs through Oct. 31. Serious frog hunters will be in the field harvesting and cooking up legal-sized frogs.

North American bullfrogs are found near lakes, ponds, rivers or bogs. These bulldogs favor warm, still, shallow waters with a lot of aquatic vegetation because of their suitable habitats for growth, reproduction and escape from predators.

Bullfrogs are the largest in the frog species found in North America, weighing up to a pound and reaching seven to eight inches long. Their color varies from brownish to shades of green, often with spots or blotches of a darker color about the back. The hind feet are fully webbed, and the sex of an adult bullfrog can be easily determined by examining the size of the tympanum or the external ear of the frog relative to the size of their eyes. The tympanum is a round circle located on the side of the head near the eye, and in males it is much larger than the eye. In females the tympanum is as large as or smaller than their eye. Adult females are larger in body size than adult males, and during the breeding season the throat of the male bullfrog is yellow, whereas the female’s is white.

North American bullfrogs prefer warm weather and will hibernate during cold weather. A bullfrog may bury itself in mud and construct a small cave-like structure for the winter. Bullfrogs can live around nine years when in the wild.

The bullfrog’s hunting style is a sit-and-wait style. Bullfrogs can wait for a long time for some type of prey to come by, then, with a flash of the tongue, they grab it and bring it back into their mouths. Bullfrogs are active both during the day and at night— they are most active when the weather is moist and warm. They are huge predators that eat snakes, worms, insects, smaller frogs, tadpoles, and aquatic eggs of fish, insects, or salamanders. Bullfrogs are cannibalistic and will not hesitate to eat their own kind. They also have a good sense of vision and can sense vibrations, which aid in hunting.

Adult males are very aggressive and defend their territories, which can range from nine to 82 feet of shoreline, by physically wrestling with other male frogs. You can tell when you are close to a male bullfrog by its unique, low rumbling call, which has a low frequency and can be heard for about five-eighths of a mile. The males are the only ones that sing their low-bellowing chorus line, the croaking or advertisement calls as they are called by people that are made to attract females and to warn other males of their territory.

The American bullfrog is one of the worst invasive species in the world. Native to eastern North America, this species of frog was introduced to the western parts of the U.S. and other countries as either a food source, as a species to control insect pests, or through accidental introduction. Bullfrogs were introduced in California in the 1890s and Colorado in the early 1900s and are now found in all 50 states and Hawaii.

People hunt bullfrogs for the delicious frog legs, and they have a limited hunting season in most states. Bullfrogs are also eaten by a wide variety of other animals, which include herons, egrets, turtles, raccoons and belted kingfishers.

Frogs can be taken both day and night with nighttime being the best time for frog hunting. As soon as it gets dark, frog hunters paddle kayaks, canoes and Jon boats quietly along weeded shorelines, or wade quietly along the bank, searching for frogs using flashlights, lanterns, spotlights or the preferred headlamp. Once spotted hunters attempt to catch the big, green hoppers. Often all you see in the narrow beam of your light is a resting frog’s eyes and the top of its head sitting or floating just above the waterline. The great thing about hunting frogs is all ages can enjoy the sport.

Captured frogs are commonly kept in wire mesh fish baskets or wet gunny sacks on the bottom of the boat, tied onto waders or carried.

Nebraska fishing regulations stipulate that bullfrogs must be taken by hand, hand-net or hook-and-line. This allows them to be taken unharmed, so frogs that don’t meet the legal size limit of 4½ inches from snout to vent can be released in good health. The bag limit is eight frogs and possession limit is 16 frogs per person. Anyone 16 years of age or older does need a valid Nebraska fishing permit to legally take frogs. Nebraska law allows frogs to be transported alive or gutted, but the frog’s body must be left intact during transport.

Fall turkey permits available beginning Aug. 13

Hunters may begin purchasing fall turkey permits at 1 p.m. on Aug. 13. Permits will be available at outdoornebraska.org and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission permitting offices.

A fall turkey permit is valid statewide and allows a hunter to harvest two turkeys of either sex with a shotgun or archery equipment. Each hunter may have up to two permits. There is no minimum age requirement for youth. The fall turkey season runs from Sept. 15 to Jan. 31 of next year.

For more information about turkey hunting in Nebraska, read the 2018 Turkey Guide available at local vendors or at outdoornebraska.gov/guides.

Boating

education class

There will be boating safety courses on Aug. 27 and Sept. 10 at Mid-Plains Community College- North Campus from 6 to 9 p.m. These courses are an Option B, self-taught home study course. Students can download and review the course study material from outdoornebraska.org by clicking the education tab, then boater education to study the materials before taking the three-hour course and exam with a certified instructor.

Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1985 is required to successfully complete a Boating Safety Course and possess a course certificate while operating a boat or personal watercraft. You must be at least 14 years of age to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft in Nebraska.

Boating Safety Courses teach students how to safely operate a motorized boat while following all rules and regulations. Topics covered by the class include navigation and safety operation, Nebraska laws and emergency preparedness. For more information or to register for the class contact Becky Ford at 308-289-1029, or call the Nebraska Game and Park office at 308-535-8025. There is a $10 fee.

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