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Dog Days could be best summer fishing

Ah yes, the "Dog Days" of summer. Some look at this period of angling instability as an easy scapegoat for poor fishing.

During a season like this, where the predictable patterns that typically accompany an average year are unreliable, the "Dog Days" may prove to be some of the best fishing yet.

According to many anglers who utilize sonar and underwater cameras, the forage base for this year has been on the verge of overabundant. In other words, the schools of minnows are more prevalent than usual, though the influx isn't scientifically proven. However, the comments regarding the prevalence of baitfish are abundant.

Though prolific baitfish may hinder a bite for anglers, another forage species becomes increasingly popular for certain fish species in late summer and early fall: Frogs.

During this time of year, frogs become more active, moving toward a migration in the early fall. Species such as largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskie, dogfish and sometimes even shallow wandering walleye or the often voracious rock bass will engulf a frog for a late summer's meal.

Frogs have experienced great change throughout the years and it wasn't so long ago that Minnesota's frog populations met great adversity.

In 1995 a group of students from the New Country School in Lesueur encountered numerous frogs in a wetland near Henderson that had deformities; missing or extra legs in addition to other body parts including disfigured eyes.

The following summer, according to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources information, two-thirds of Minnesota counties reported irregularities in frog anatomy. Minnesota's Pollution Control Agency received 175 reports of deformed frogs that year.

At first, pollution was thought to be the direct cause, but more recent studies have ended up with less definitive answers. Some researchers believe it's a result of predation from dragonfly nymphs, while the MPCA website states that "recent test results indicate that something in the water from research sites is causing the abnormalities. The causative agent itself is still unknown. Studies are still being conducted to determine if it is a chemical, parasite, ultraviolet radiation, or additional factors.

"Reports of malformed amphibians have been reported in 35 states in the U.S. and 3 provinces in Canada since 1996. In Minnesota, nearly three-quarters of our 87 counties have reported malformed frogs since 1996."

Those species affected primarily include the northern leopard frog, though wood frogs, green frogs, mink frogs, gray treefrogs, spring peepers and American toads have also been afflicted.

Yet no matter the cause, frogs continue to reign during late summer and early fall as a sought after meal for big fish, not to mention certain aquatic birds.

Largemouth bass, especially, turn their attention toward the sprawled out legs of a lazy frog. Yet live frogs aren't necessary to haul in a hefty fish. Numerous companies produce life-like lures that act like the real jumpers.

If you do see a live frog with abnormalities, contact Ralph Pribble at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency at 651-757-2657 or (800) 657-3864.