The muskrat board set is a great option once the lakes and ponds have frozen over and the ice is safe enough to walk across.
Trapping muskrats is a lot of fun but after the ice forms and a blanket of snow covers the landscape, finding the perfect spot to place a body grip trap can be a little bit tricky.
Board sets are great because they use bait which attracts the muskrat to your set. The baited set gives you a little bit of leniency compared to a blind set and if you're off the muskrat run a little bit they can still be effective.
You can use the set in any pond or swamp that contains muskrats, however, I've found the set only works after the ice has formed.
Since the board is wedged under the ice on a 45 degree angle, you need to have the ice to support the top of the board. Without the ice, the board is unstable and you could loose your entire set.
Although the set requires a little bit of work at first, it will last for many years and it doesn't require a whole lot of maintenance. To construct the set you'll need the following materials:
Boards - 1x4 boards work great. You can either rip a 2x4 in half to make two boards or find some old fencing. The boards should be about 6-8 feet long and have a wedge cut into one end to shove into the bottom of the pond.
Traps - #1 long spring traps are a great choice for a board set although larger long springs or coil springs will also work.
Bait - Carrots are my favorite but my old trapping partner always preferred parsnips. Either one will work but a bright orange carrot seems to outperform any other bait.
Nails And Staples - 2 finish nails and one large staple are required for each board. Use one nail to secure the bait to the board and the other to hang the trap about 2-3 inches below the bait. Use one large staple to secure the end of the trap chain to the bottom of the board.
Ice Spud - Using an ice spud makes chopping holes in the ice easier than using an axe. Plus, you don't get splashed by the ice cold water when using a spud. If you don't use an axe you'll have to bring along a hammer to pound in the nails and staple.
Sled - Using a sled is optional but if you're using several boards per location a sled makes the whole process a lot easier.
Locate an area that contains muskrat huts. If the ice is clear enough you should be able to see a trail of bubbles under the ice. These bubble trails are left behind by muskrats as they travel from their huts to feeding areas. Setting a trap directly in a run is ideal.
Make the set about 10-15 feet away from the hut. Start by cutting a hole in the ice using your spud. Once the hole is cut take a board and shove it into the bottom of the pond on a 45 degree angle.
Once you have an idea of the depth, take a finish nail and nail on a chunk of carrot so that it will be about 2 inches under the bottom of the ice when you make the set. From the carrot, use the other finish nail to hang the trap about 3 inches below your bait. You don't have to be exact, rough estimates will work.
Finally, use the staple to secure the trap chain near the bottom of the board.
Once the trap is set, carefully lower the board into the hole and push it into the bottom of the pond on a 45 degree angle. The top of the board can rest against the ice or if the angle is off you don't have to worry because the board will become solid when it freezes.
That's it.....you're done! As the muskrat swims under the ice it will see the carrot. As it rests against the board to pull the carrot off it will step on the trigger resulting in a nice high foothold catch. The weight of the trap quickly drowns the muskrat. To retrieve the muskrat you just pull the board from the hole in the ice.
After you have several muskrat board sets made you will usually have one that fits the water depth you're trapping so you don't have to pound the nails into the board every time. Also, the boards seem to work better with age after they become grey or black from the mud and weather.
If you live in an area where the water freezes over, the muskrat board set is my favorite way to trap muskrats in the winter.
After you have a few boards made up, the sets are quick an easy to make and best of all.......they work great!