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Muskrat Trapping

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 made.

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 possible.

      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.