A muskrat runway set is used to trap muskrats as they travel back and forth through shallow water.
When muskrats make several trips in the same area they leave behind a path or small channel in the mud that can be very noticeable and easy to find.
This small channel is the muskrat runway and this runway is a great spot to set a trap. When it comes to setting a trap on a runway you have two options that work well.
The first option is to set a body gripping trap also called a conibear trap in the runway.
Why choose a conibear and not a foothold trap? Since the water is sometimes shallow in these runways, using a foothold trap is difficult because the water might be too shallow to drown the muskrat.
Without deep water a muskrat that's trapped in a foothold will usually "wring" off its foot and escape. Plus, as a trapper you want to create ethical and humane sets that quickly dispatch the animal with a minimal amount of stress.
So, unless you can stake your foothold off into deep water, it's best to just stick with a conibear trap for these shallow water situations.
The second option is to use a colony trap which is also called a box trap. As long as the water is deep enough to submerge the colony trap, they work great and they're simple to set up.
Colony traps are a little more cumbersome to carry through the woods, but with the added benefit of catching multiple muskrats in one night, they're usually worth the effort.
If you choose to use a conibear the first step is to locate the muskrat run. Look for a small channel carved into the mud or look for a path in shallow water running through the grass or weeds.
If the location allows, it's easier to find the run if you can stand on the bank and look out into the water so you don't disturb the mud and make the water cloudy and hard to see.
Once you locate the run, set the conibear by placing a long stick through the hole in the trap's spring. Make sure the trap is snug against the stick. You don't want the trap to move as the muskrat swims through it.
You can also shove a few smaller sticks in the ring to help wedge the trap.
Once you have the trap on the stick, simply set the trap in the middle of the runway. As the muskrat travels through the runway it will attempt to pass through the trap and get caught.
A #110 or #120 conibear works well for this set. I typically use a #110 because they only have one spring which makes them easy to set just using one stick.
The #110 has plenty of power for muskrats and they also have enough strength to hold a mink, which will commonly travel a muskrat runway in search of one of their favorite meals.....muskrats.
The colony trap is rectangular box constructed of wire that has a one way swinging door on each end.
As a muskrat swims into the trap it pushes the door open and it falls down behind it trapping the muskrat inside. The colony trap is set below the water level so the trapped muskrat drowns.
The colony trap is a popular trap because it allows you to trap multiple muskrats at one location.
Since multiple muskrats can use the same runway, using a colony trap for a muskrat runway set is a great choice. It's pretty common to trap 2, 3 or even 4 muskrats in a single night using one of these traps.
To set the trap, find a well used muskrat run that's deep enough to fully submerge the trap.
Once you find a good location, secure the colony trap with the included stakes or use sticks to prevent the trap from rocking back and forth.
You can also use a couple guide sticks on each end of the trap to ensure the muskrats swim through the trap and not around it.
That's it! It only takes a couple of minutes to set up a colony trap. You don't need to bait the trap since you're taking advantage of the muskrats natural travel pattern.
As you're walking through the marsh on your next trapline, keep an eye out for active muskrat runs. They're pretty easy to spot, especially if the lake or pond has a soft bottom or if there is a lot of vegetation.
The muskrat runway set is one of the easiest muskrat sets to make because they don't require any baiting or elaborate setup. Plus, you have the added benefit of trapping the occasional mink that will use these same runways.
Just use a #110 conibear or a colony trap and you should able to trap multiple muskrats at a single location.