A couple simple Muskrat Trapping sets.
I wanted to talk to you everyone today about muskrat trapping. Here in southwest Pennsylvania we don’t have an over abundance of muskrats. Between our lack of population and a season that runs for around 6 weeks, if you are lucky enough to catch 60 to 70 you have accomplished a great feat. You can still find pockets that hold a healthy muskrat population but even that maybe 10 or 12. Now if you travel a few hours north of here you can get into a much better muskrat trapping area. The Pymatuning area in Northern Pennsylvania has a pretty decent population of muskrat but still nothing like the guys experience in the Dakotas or other state like that. We make a trip every year up to the Pymatuning area for the Pa opener on Muskrats and Mink. Our First trip was 3 years ago and it was really a learning experience for my buddy, Billy McKay and I. See here in SW PA we focus on small streams and farm ponds for most of our muskrat trapping. Up there it is mostly trapping marshes.
We learned pretty quick that although muskrat trapping is much the same up there as it is here, there are also a lot of major differences. One of the biggest differences we experienced was trapping out of a canoe vs. trapping out of the bed of a truck. When canoe trapping you need to simplify your sets and equipment to try and cut down on weight in order to fit as many traps in the canoe as you can. By doing this it helps save time and energy rowing back and forth to the truck, which is at time, 2 or 3 miles away.
The best set up we found was to take a Duke #1 ½ coil spring, have a 5 foot extension cable attached to it with a simple 24” tee bar stake secure to the other end. This set up will cover 90% of all the muskrat sets we use there. It is an easy set up to put together, the trap is heavy enough that it drowns the muskrat quickly and with the 5 foot extension cable on there, it allows the rat to get to deeper water without any problems. We would load up several dozens of these set ups into totes and stack them in the middle of the canoe to help distribute the weight. In another smaller tote we would toss in a few #110s for those ideal situations.
As far as lure and bait, we keep it pretty simple. We take a bag of apple, which we cut into quarters and a few good lures.
We are focusing mainly on feed beds as we set out our line. We are looking for the places where they are crawling up on the beds to eat. Most all feed beds have more than 1 crawl up on them. They are usually are opposite sides for the rats that come into them in different directions. Once we locate them, we simply take a 1 ½ and set it at the base of the feed bed so it is set with the levers running up and down the crawl up trail. We want our trap pan just under the water about an inch or 2. We push the stake into the side if the feed bed making sure the extension isn’t tangled up so once the muskrat is caught it can dive back into the water without the cable stopping it. We then place a small stick dipped in lure up on the bed about a foot above the trap pan. We will repeat this same set up on the crawl ups we found on that bed before moving to the next bed.
Along these channels we will toss in some mock sides and baited slides to catch the muskrats that may be passing up the feed beds in their travels. We will find a place on the bank where the water is couple of feet deep and the bank is kind of straight up and down. Take your hand or boot and slick up a spot on the bank running from the water up the bank as high as you can. Make it all muddy and shiny. This will make it look like something has been crawling up and down the bank and add great eye appeal to your set to grab their attention as they come by. You will next want to cut out a flat spot just below the water surface for a trap bed. You want your trap bedded solid with the pan a few inches below the water surface and the levers of your trap facing the bank. You want the muskrat to go between the jaws of the trap. We then shove our stake in the bank; once again making sure our extension cable is free and clear. This is where we use the quarter piece of apple. Take your apple slice and pin it to the bank about a foot up above the trap using a stick or a piece of wire. We apply our lure directly to the apple and you have a finished baited mocked slide. Now this set is also effective without the bait and lure but I feel it helps increase our odds and speeds up the catch time.
This is just a couple of the sets that we found are very effective for trapping these types of situations and hopefully this will help out someone on their muskrat line. Remember to keep it simple and just repeat. The biggest thing with catching muskrats is speed and efficiency. This holds even truer when trapping out of a canoe with limited space. Using these simple sets and systems we were able to put 63 muskrats in the canoe in just 4 trap checks in the marsh. At home we would have had weeks and many many miles to try and get that some number.