How to Setup a Muskrat Board Set

Photoby rob_swystun / CC BY / CC BY

What is a Muskrat Board Set?
The Muskrat is nothing if not adaptable. They tend to stay active throughout the year, even during the harsh winter months when the surface of the water bodies that their dens are located in freeze over. While this makes trapping them a touch more complicated, it is not completely out of the question. The Muskrat Board Set is the ideal, perhaps the only viable option during this interesting time.

It is essentially a board with a trap and bait attached that is partially submerged in the water through a hole cut into the ice. This article serves to educate you on how to set up your own Muskrat Board Set and the pros and cons of using them. For more tips on a related topic, please visit our article on [Trapping Muskrat Under the Ice].

Basic Setup of a Muskrat Board Set:
While a Board Set can be used on land as well, it is best used when trying to trap muskrat under the ice. During the dead of winter, locating the muskrat den or trail isn’t as straightforward as it is during the summer. But the key tip is to look for air bubbles that are trapped under the surface of the ice, as they lead to and away from Muskrat dens. The bubbles will be visible through 10 centimeters of ice, but any thicker and you’ll probably not be able to make them out.

And this goes without saying, but make sure the ice is safe enough to handle your weight before you even think about setting up this trap.

The first thing to do is to cut out a hole in the ice that is wide enough to allow both the board set and the soon-to-be trapped muskrat to pass through. You can use any number of tools for this, though we would recommend an ice spud. The board set consists of a wooden board, usually 1×4 of 7 or so feet in length. Carve a wedge into the end that will be shoved into the water, and consequently the earth under it at about a 45 degree angle. This will help to keep the board set in place. The trap itself should be a foothold one for best results.

This set works best with bait; some might even say that it is a requirement. A small raw carrot will do quite well. The bait should be affixed to the area of the board that is approximately 2-3 inches under the ice surface and the trap should be another 2-3 inches below the bait. Lean the board against the ice hole and it should freeze over in time to secure the board set completely. Check the trap every 24 hours (you should be able to see through the ice) and cut the hole open again around the board set to retrieve your catch.

Advantages of this Set:

This is essentially your only real option to catch a muskrat during winter in the water. The set is also very reliable and can be reused even years after its construction.
Disadvantages of this Set:

If the ice is either too thin or too thick, then you’ll not be using the Board Set any time soon.
Obviously there will be more risk of trapping in the cold too.
In general, you’ll find most trappers having a preference in what trap is best. Its really going to end up with you trying a trap or technique and seeing how it works. Personally, some trapping techniques don’t work for me; while I have others simply saying I’m doing it wrong. In the end, you can give it a shot and see how it ends up! It may be the best trap you’ve ever tried.