Speed Trapping Muskrats: Lessons From The Trapline

muskrat swimming in lake

Growing up in northern Wisconsin the anticipation of trapping season would make a boy forget about birthdays, Christmas and all the other lesser holidays. Before the opening bell would chime the traps would be checked, the truck tuned up and the boats repaired from the abuse of the seasons past.

I would sit in rapt attention as my father and uncle regaled each other with stories of harvests they took before I was even an idea. But between those stories came the real treasure, tips that somehow stayed with me that I still use today to take more muskrat than I could have on my own.

I am sure I’ve forgotten far more of their tips than not, but today I’ll pass on some of those old timers’ words of trapping wisdom. They’ve allowed me to set my traps faster and harvest more fur and they will do the same for you.

High Speed Muskrat Trapping Techniques

Trapping at a high speed starts with knowing the exact placement for each of your traps before opening day. You must also have all of your trapping equipment ready to go before hitting the trapline.

Scouting For Speed

Pre-scouting is a must for the speed trapper. But your scouting must be taken to a level most do not. You will have the exact location of your sets mapped out and planned to the smallest detail. That means writing down the exact location and set type to be placed for every trap you intend to use.

Most trappers scout by simply walking their territory looking for signs of muskrat. They see tracks and call it good. But to be a speed trapper who takes more fur than the average Joe, you will go the extra mile and scout in detail.

In your trapping notes, you will write down every house, feed bed, den, and push up and write down exactly how you are going to work each location. You are going to write it down while you are in the field so you don’t forget later on when sitting down and having a beer.

This is crucial because now you will know exactly how many traps you need and how you’re setting them.

Keep in mind that muskrats move frequently so your detailed scouting should be done in the days leading up to the season open or you risk trapping where the rats were instead of where they are.

If you have your territory to yourself then you can mark your set locations with a stake for even faster locating. But if you trap where there is competition this should be avoided as you will tip your hand to the other guys chasing your muskrats.

Preparing Your Equipment

I know far too many trappers who spend half of opening day gathering and repairing their traps and equipment. But to be a fur harvesting machine you will have all of your gear ready to go well in advance of the first trapping being set.

If you plan to use wooden stakes, you will have them cut and dried before being driven in the ground. One of my favorite tips I received was to paint the top of stake so you don’t have to use any flagging. This method is best suited if you reuse wood stakes over the course of multiple seasons since painting will take a decent amount of time to complete.

If you plan to trap from a boat be sure that all your stakes are about four feet long before hitting the trapline. This allows the stakes to be set without getting out of your boat, greatly speeding up your set time.

Also prewire all your traps to your stakes. This speeds up placement and minimizes lost rats compared to just placing the stake through the chain hole. (I’ve also lost a few traps by neglecting to wire my stakes, not worth it)

The next step is to set your traps a day or two before opening day. This is a huge time saver and can be done safely with a little trick I was taught.

Put a piece of trappers wire around the trap jaws and the frame that the dog pivots on. One loop around is enough to hold the trap when set.

After you place the trap on opening day simply snip the wire with a pair of pliers and take the wire with you.

Boat Trapping Speed Tips

Trapping from a boat takes either skill or patience, but having both is nice. The wind can push you until your trap location is out reach and you can find yourself repositioning your boat multiple times at the same set. But with these handy tips, you can eliminate this annoying situation and speed up your trapping.

Secure an anchor rope to both ends of your boat and attach coyote drags. You can use the drags to attach to overgrowth and prevent your boat from drifting in the wind.

I also use chest waders so I can step anywhere without getting wet. These two tips alone will save you a ton of time when using your boat to trap muskrat.


In all my years of trapping I’ve run into a sorry few other trappers who put much thought into speeding up their trapping time. But no other skill has increased my harvest numbers more. And all it takes is a little pre planning and leg work and you are guaranteed to increase your muskrat take this season.

Written by Fred

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