A must-see, must-taste, must-experience edible, historical, food extravaganza, all Florida, all the time. A product of The FOOD Museum. For the Archives, please click the file folder icon at right.
As a lifelong “Gladesman,” Dave Shealy loves to eat frog legs. He has been catching the native amphibians in the Big Cypress since he was a child.
“I started out using a cane pole, a hair hook and a little red cloth,” Shealy said. “You wiggle the red cloth in front of them and they’d grab it and you’d catch them.”
But as a teen, the frogger went “high-tech,” using a battery-powered headlamp to locate his quarry and a four-pronged gig to impale them as he paddled rivers, creeks, sloughs and canals.
"It’s a great way to meet girls, a great first date,” he said, chuckling.
Shealy said he has never sold frogs commercially, even though they can bring up to $9 per pound. He eats what he wants and gives the rest away.
“I’d rather just give some to my family or give them to someone elderly who can’t get out,” he said. Commercial frogging is illegal in the Big Cypress; it is permitted in other nearby swamps. Big Cypress froggers may take one five-gallon bucket of frogs per vessel per day, with a possession limit of 18 pounds of dressed legs.
Florida Frog Legs: How to hunt and cook
”A bright light with a concentrated beam is the most important piece of equipment you need besides the gig. Just cruise quietly down the bank and use your light until you spot a pair of eyes on the shore. Get in close with the light on the frog and get your gig to within a foot or so before you quickly stab him and haul him in.”
It is a simple matter to clean the frogs.
Just cut the hind legs off at the body and then pull the skin off with a pair of pliers or catfish skinners.
Once that is done, the meat is ready for your favorite method of cooking.
The typical way to prepare the meat is this:
Wash the legs in cold water for a couple of minutes.
Mix one cup of flour, one tablespoon of lemon pepper, one teaspoon of salt and one of black pepper together in a bag.
Beat two eggs and prepare some cracker crumbs crushed up fine.
Put the legs in the bag of flour mix and shake to coat them.
Now dip them in the beaten eggs and roll the meat in your cracker crumbs.
Deep fry the legs for seven or eight minutes at 365 degrees or until golden brown.
The taste similar to white meat chicken, but will be more tender.
Florida Frog Leg Heritage: Gigging
Frog gigging is commonly done at night, but it can be done during the day as well. Traditionally, flashlights or spotlights are used to locate the frogs as their eyes reflect the light at night. In addition to help the locating of frogs, shining a light in their eyes stuns or dazes the frogs, and makes it less likely for the frog to see an approaching hunter, or the incoming gig itself. A four or five-tined gig is often preferred for frog gigging, as they are normally wider giving the frog gigger more room for error when thrusting the gig at a frog. Frog gigs however, traditionally have smaller tines and are generally smaller overall than gigs used for fish. A fishing license is required in most states and jurisdictions. Frog gigging regulations are usually found in each state’s hunting and fishing regulations.
Frogs are often sought for the meat of their hind legs. Frog legs are often cooked deep fried or sautéed. In proportion, the hind legs can contain as much meat as the legs of a medium-sized chicken. Traditionally they are breaded with a mixture of egg and bread or cracker crumbs. Frog legs, often imported from Asia, are available at many restaurants or stores, particularly in the Southern United States.
Although capturing frogs with a net or clasp pole may be referred to as frog gigging by some, this is incorrect, as a gig is not being used. Handling frogs with the objective of releasing them may harm the creature because some chemicals present on the hands can easily be absorbed through their skin. Read more here.
Florida Frogs Legs History: Pig Frogs
"Frogs legs are prized as an epicurean treat in many cultures. Most frog species are edible, but only the larger ones, such as the bullfrog and the pig frog, are large enough to make harvesting and preparation economically profitable. In Florida the pig frog and the bullfrog have long been considered staples of the frog-leg industry. They are hunted at night from boats using lights and a miniature pitchfork known as a ‘frog gig’. In the grocery store, frog legs sell for about $16 a pound. (Note: If you are thinking of taking up frog gigging, you will need a commercial freshwater fish dealer’s license to take for sale, or sell frogs.)" Read more here.
"Marsh Landing, where local fried frog legs are always on the menu — along with a fried green tomato BLT sandwich.
The restaurant, which also sells pickled okra and vinegar hot peppers in mason jars, invites guests to experience the cuisine and history of Old Florida. “It’s like dining in a museum,” boasts its Facebook page. Historical documents and photos line the walls next to a stuffed alligator and rustic farming tools. Every table features newspaper clippings from the early 1900s.
Fellsmere was the first city in Florida to adopt women’s suffrage, and one clipping at a Marsh Landing table describes “the procession of the handsomest and most capable women in the in the Southland marching up to the election booth and casting into the box the first ballots ever so placed by one of their sex in unrestricted franchise south of the Mason and Dixon line.” A local chapter of the National Organization for Women still meets at the restaurant every August to commemorate the historic moment.
The elegant building that houses Marsh Landing was built in 1926 but had been boarded up for decades when Fran Adams bought it at auction. After restoring the building, she and her daughter Susan opened the restaurant in 2002. Today the restaurant attracts professionals from nearby towns along with local movers and shakers who can talk business while dining on alligator tail or catfish in a private dining room.”