This muskrat was taken in a simple slide set formed by
an old ditch.
Muskrats are very
fun and easy to trap once you can find a good population of them
to trap. For most trappers, the muskrat was the first animal
they targeted and caught. As stated above, they are easy to trap
and you can find them in almost in body of water with enough
vegetation to survive on.
They were not exactly the first animal I tried to trap, 'coon was
the first. I didn't catch any until my second year of trapping
when I decided to trap them seriously. I got a call to trap
beaver off one of the Ohio State Extension Agents land and I was
allowed to trap anything I wanted too while I for my nuisance
permit to come back. After a couple days I had finally caught my
first muskrat in a slide set on the creek that fed the one being
dammed by the corn raiding beavers.
After a while I soon amassed a decent catch of muskrats. I think
I caught a dozen 'rats off the two creeks. That's not bad for
someone who had just started seriously trapping muskrats and off
a small section of stream. I later caught a couple more 'rats on
some of the places I was called to trap beaver on. I had to catch
a couple to keep them out of my traps, I had seen a group of 5
'rats swimming past me as I tended my traps. I did catch one of
them 'rats in the no.3 Bridger trap I was using at a castor mound
set for beaver and caught a couple more in feedbed sets I
Tools for Muskrats
If this is the first thing you've read about muskrats sorry about
skipping their biological information since its well covered in
other books, trust me.
The traps I like to use for muskrats are any of the no. 1 traps
of any brand and style, jump, coil and longsprings. I like the
1.5 coilsprings and longsprings for muskrats, too because of the
increased spread, weight and ability to hold any raccoon or mink
that comes along. As for conibears the 110 conibear is a must for
trappers that have a lot of den entrances, runs and deep pools or
water with few spots for footholds or insufficient water depth
for drowning. Colony traps, where legal, are perfect for
trapping muskrats when doing nuisance work and fur trapping where
you want to catch as many muskrats in as few checks as
After you get your traps you need some things to keep you from
being soaked while trapping muskrats. Some kinds of boots, hip
boots or chest waders are essential to keep you dry while wading
through the water, just make sure you wear the appropriate ones
for the water depths you are trapping. Gloves are optional but if
you don't like getting your hands wet and freezing they are the
way to go. I usually wear shoulder length gauntlets for trapping
most ponds, marshes, or lakes and some creeks and rivers. I carry
a pair of 14 inch gloves for VERY shallow water trapping. You may
want to carry a walking stick to find those deep spots capable of
filling you waders before you find them.
Your are going to need some kind of shovel or spade for making
sets along your line. I like a tiling spade for making any kind
of baited set involving digging. I have also used a short-handled
shovel but its harder to make sets with it because of it being
short-handled, carry one any ways cause you might need this to
dig out your truck or 4-wheeler when it gets mired.
Sets for Muskrats
Of all species of furbearers, I believe that there are more kinds
of different sets for muskrats than any other species of
muskrats. As a general rule of thumb, blind sets are more
productive for muskrats than baited sets. The reason for this is
that muskrats seldom travel vary far for anything when they are
in good habitat and they usually have more than enough food
available so they don't respond do bait very much. Blind sets, on
the other hand, are almost guaranteed a catch as long as the
feature you are setting is active, muskrats visit the same spots
almost every night.
The three most common sets for conibears and colony traps are the
den, run and bottom edge sets. When you find an active den you
have just found the most effective place for a trap as any. All
you have to do is set the trap of choice in front of the
entrance, stabilize as necessary, some states do not allow the
setting of traps at den entrances so please check your laws.
Runs are channels that are carved out due to the repeated use of
swimming muskrats. Sets are made by placing again your trap of
choice in the run and stabilize as necessary.
Bottom edge sets
where you have the right kinds or streams and the right locations
are hard to beat when dens and runs are hard to find. Mink
trappers use this set a lot and catch 3 times more muskrats in
these sets than mink. Finding the location for this set is the
deciding factor if you are to make a catch. As you are walking
along the stream, look for a point that sticks out into the
water, this projection should be nearly vertical to be effective.
"There are tons of these projections, where do I set?" The most prominent
ones are the ones you want because the animal will try to hug that bend to
either sneak up or avoid be abushed.
Slides for the creek trapper can be one of
the most productive sets you can make or the most frustrating. Trap
placement is hard to determine because the muskrat can be coming two ways.
It can come sliding down the slide, which can result in a misfire. Or, it
can swim or walk to the set. The best solution I have come up with is to
excavate a shallow trap bed in the mud to make the trap level with the bottom.
Here a no 1.5 foothold is the best choise.
A simple set where you have a vertical bank is the
water's edge trail set or shelf set. Simply place the trap up against the bank
and you can nab almost anything, if they are forced to go against the bank.