OK I have decided to do an Otter trapping 101 from my otter trapping adventures. There seems to be a lot more interest in otter on the site this year and I have received several PM's asking questions so I figured I would do this for everyone. I have been trapping otter for many years now and my fascination with them started at a very young age thanks to my Dad (Thanks so much Dad). When I was a little boy I would tag along with my dad and one day he pulled out this huge otter from a drowing set on a spillway on an old beaver wall. My dad never targeted otter just got a few in beaver sets from time to time. Well time for some sets.
First off I am going to describe where to set and what to look for. Some of my favorite sets should be obvious otter set locations. Beaver spillways either active dams or old abondoned dams. If you look close enough most beaver dams have more than one spillway and otter a lot of times use the less noticable ones, but also use the main ones as well. In this areas I like to set a drowner set on the top side of the wall with either a #4 jump, #4 double longspring or an MB750 if there are active beaver there. Now there are several other footholds you can use this is just what I have.
The bottom side of the spillway are great areas to place a conibear I prefer the 280 on old beaver walls where no beaver are around and 330's in active areas. This is a great opportunity to take an otter double. If the bottom side is really wide and a coni doesn't block it off effectively use some blocking with brush or look for a narrower spot a little downstream. These areas are excellent otter areas to set. Here are some pics of these type of sets that have taken otter for me through the years. When you find these old dams be sure to look for downed trees or logs to see if anything has been diving under them or if there is room to go under if so set it!
The set in this pic is set every year with a foothold on the top side and a 280 right at the bottom of the dam both sets have taken otter for me.
These two pics are of the same old beaver dam there was an little island below the dam creating two channels. Both channels were set (great place for an otter double) the first pic took one beaver and if you look closely to the right side the otter tracks going over the spillway on the wall just above the set. Then the set with the old rotten log took two otter last year.
This pic is also below an old beaver dam this log is old and has been there for years if you look close you can see the otter in the 280 I think it is the tail sticking out of the water. Look over the log and notice the otter tracks there three otter went through this set with I am assuming the first being caught. This set has taken 2 otter for me so far.
Next set the otter toilet. If anyone has followed creeks and rivers in the winter time you have probably run across an otter toilet. They come out of the creek and do their thing usually in thicker areas like under heavy pines or spruce trees, but not always. Mark these spots in your head if you find them outside of season. If they use it once they will be back mark my words! I don't set these often, but when I do I set them with footholds unless a great conibear spot presents itself. You should see well defined trails leading to and from these toilets. Don't have pics right now of one but I will try and get some this winter and add them here.
Now to one of the best producing otter sets in my career the pinch point set. This in my opinion is one of the best here in Michigan. Now this could be a narrow channel connecting a pond or marsh to a small creek or just a narrow spot in a creek or river. Try to find an area that is in the center of the creek or close to it where it is naturally narrow. Little blocking will be needed if you find a great spot. Set a 280 or 330 whichever you prefer in this area and place a dive log right over the top of the trap. Also if you find small ponds or marshes close to a creek or river you are trapping take a close look to see if you can find distinct or faint trails going from one to the other these are great areas to take otter traveling from one to the other.
Here are some pinch point pics.
This set took one otter for me so far and this is the exact spot where I saw an otter swim right through it a week ago when I was going back to reset it. Look closely in the pic there is an otter in the 280, but hard to tell what it is.
Another pinch point pic notice it is in the center of the stream and this check had a nice beaver in it. As you can see these sets are great beaver sets as well.
Other things I always look for are old rotten logs or really old beaver dams that are not really holding water that are flooded over. I look to see if anything is tunneling under these old dams or going under these logs to hunt. Here is a pic of an old flooded beaver dam I found last year it never took an otter for me but several beaver. These logs I talk about no matter how deep are great places to place a conibear on the bottom in the center if you need to block off the sides with brush and leave the center for the trap this works great on otter and beaver. I like to set blind sets like this as much as possible.
Pic of old flooded dam notice beaver tail sticking up and the light sand bottom that is where they were tunneling under this old dam about 3 feet deep where the 280 was set.
Another great set that I seldom pass up for otter is the abandoned beaver lodge set. Find these lodges and the den entrances and set coni's in them and be very patient! These sets have taken several otter for me over the years. The otter go in and take a nap or eat a fresh kill or just to check it out to see what is in there and this set can take otter for you, but patience is needed. This is a great winter set when thick ice sets in it seems the otter use them more in those circumstances. The set I described with old rotten logs in the stream set deep is also a great under ice otter set in the winter time.
If you are trapping in areas where there are mostly large rivers and it is hard to find such areas to set try and find small feeder creeks that enter the big river and set conibears there. These small feeder creeks are great areas to tag an otter. They use them frequently from what I have seen over the years. I have taken otter in creeks that are 1-2 feet wide. Just this week I seen tracks from a pair of otter that went right down a creek that was a foot wide in most places and no deeper than 10" and the widest areas I seen was 2-3 feet, but really shallow.
To anchor my foothold sets for otter I use either a drowning stake if the bottom is good for driving a wood stake and I make sure the end of the drowner is at least 4 feet deep or deeper. For my slide I use 11 guage wire and make sure you have good swivels on your trap chains so the otter can swivel instead of binding up the wire. I have never had a problem using wire for otter if you prefer use a cable slide instead. I set my footholds shallow 1" deep because otter have very short front legs and you don't want to catch chest hair. If the bottom is rocky I will use the nylon sack and fill it with at least 50 lbs of rock to make sure the otter doesn't pull it up.
Now there are other sets that will take otter as well such as the bottom edge set if you find a great location set it. These are just the sets that I do really well with and use the most. I will add more pics of some of these sets when I take them and more information when I realize I missed something. Hopefully this thread will help anyone out who is actively attempting to catch their first otter. I hope I was a big help and good luck to everyone out there going for these magnificant torpedos!