Mink Trapping 101

Discussion in 'Trapping Techniques archive' started by David G Duncan, Nov 22, 2007.

  1. Mink are a fantastic furbearer to go after on your trapline!

    Back in the depression years trappers could make some excellent money on their trapline, if they understood how to catch mink. So it is not surprising that trappers from that era did not share their secrets about how to catch mink with every new trapper that came along.

    Here is a photo from back in the 1930's, showing a trapper with a very profitable catch of mink. Photo taken from a book "Steel Traps" by A. R. Harding published in 1935.


    Even, as recently as the 1950's mink were bringing what would amount to over $500 in today's dollars for one large male mink. So it is easy to see, that a lot of mystery came to surround the seemingly elusive mink. At least in the minds of all the young trappers and even some old trappers.

    In fact mink are not that difficult to catch, once you understand some of their basic habits.

    Mink are largely a land animal that will also spend a good deal of its hunting time in the water.

    They are excellent at catching mice as well as minnows. And seem to spend about an equal amount of time doing both.

    They travel mainly along the edges of any river, stream, marsh or lake. And can also be found anywhere that muskrats are plentiful, since they can also easily kill a muskrat.

    Finding the sharp claws feathery tracks of a mink in the muddy edge of a stream, is probably the best way to start your education of where mink like to spend their time hunting.

    Once you are able to easily identify mink tracks, both in the mud and in the snow, you will be well on your way to becoming an accomplished mink trapper.

    Trap Sizes and Types:
    Any trap that is suited for muskrats will work fine for mink.

    Starting with the # 1 longspring trap. However, make sure that the springs on your # 1 longsprings are strong and in good condition. Because the trap needs to be very fast to catch the lightning quick mink. Also, it is a good idea to set a pair of strong # 1 longsprings at each mink set to make sure that the mink will not escape, especially if deep water is not available to ensure a quick drowning setup.

    By far the best all around mink trap has to be the # 1.5 coilspring.

    It is a super fast trap and has amazing ability to hold on to a furbearers foot.

    It also, is heavy enough to ensure a quick drowning of even the largest mink.

    They are compact and easy to bed in even the tightest set locations, as compared to longspring traps.

    Therefore, if you are serious about be a mink trapper, then you definitely need to acquire some good # 1.5 coilsprings.

    110 & 160 Conibears are also an excellent mink trap, especially for trail sets and other blind set locations. A blind set is any set where the trapper is not using bait or lure to attract the furbearer. But, is only relying on his knowledge of where the furbearer will be traveling to determine where to place his trap.

    Mink, like muskrats are frequently swiming along the bottom edge of the bank of any stream, to travel and to locate food. So any location that would make a good "Bottom Edge Set" for a muskrat, will also be an excellent location to catch a mink. It only takes longer for the set to connect with a traveling mink.

    Here is a mink that was caught in a "Bottom Edge Set" made in about 2' deep water at the edge of a steep vertical bank. This 110 conibear set took several muskrats before catching this nice mink.


    (See posting below by Seldom on "Bottom Edge Set" for more details on using conibears for mink.)

    Fastening Your Trap:

    Fastening your traps is by far the most important aspect of trapping that every trapper must master. It is of no value to make an excellent set and caught a furbearer and then lose it due to a poor fastening system.

    So, if you are going to use wire to fasten your traps, then it must be at least # 11 guage. If you only can obtain # 14 guage (So called Trapper's wire) then it must be doubled.

    Try to always make your mink sets where there is sufficient water to allow for quick drowning of the mink. Either rig a slide drowning setup or provide sufficient length of wire to allow the caught mink to reach deep water.

    Even a 110 conibear needs to be securely fastened to ensure that the captured furbearer remains close at hand.

    Bait and Lures:
    I have found the use of lures to be not all that important, when it comes to mink trapping. But a lure with muskrat musk and a little mink musk does seem to add a little appeal to any baited mink set.

    In the early part of the mink season the use of fresh fish as a bait is my preferrence. Then, after thing start to freeze up, I normally switch to fresh muskrat for bait.

    In a pocket set, place a Q-ball size piece of bait, wrapped in some dry grass and placed at the back of the pocket. This seems to add some eye appeal and also serves to keep the bait a little fresher.

    A typical blind set where a mink enters or leaves the water near a tree trunk or exposed root system can be improved by simply rubbing some fresh fish onto the tree trunk in the vicinity of the trap. The mink will dash back and forth trying to find the location of the fish and it improves your chances of making a catch.

    Use a small pencil sized stick, stuck into the bank about 3.5" in front of the center of the trap pan, for the mink to jump over. This will help to make sure that he hits your pan dead center.

    These are just a few points to get you started on your adventure of catching an elusive mink.

    Here is a photo of a "Perfect Location to Catch a Mink".


    A close view. Notice the logs that extend out into the stream. Mink like to fish these types of locations. They run along the log and then dive into the water to catch their dinner of minnows. I have seen mink do this numerous times and they always seem to reappear climbing back out on the log with a minnow in their mouth.


    Here is a close up view of where the # 1.5 coilspring was set in front of the pocket hole. Notice the wad of dry grass stuck into the pocket hole.


    The end result. A nice buck mink caught high on the leg and quickly drown in the three foot deep water under the log jam.


    Here is a photo of a nice bunch of mink, that demonstrates the proper way to put up mink. Note that the saddles are left on wild mink to distinguish them from ranch mink. This photo courtesy of Northcountry.


    Here is a link to a posting on some more great looking stretched mink: http://www.michigan-sportsman.com/forum/showthread.php?t=162653

    Wanna kill these ads? We can help!
    #1 David G Duncan, Nov 22, 2007
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2008
  2. Nice post Dave!
    Very informative and makes me want to trap mink right now! BTW how much are mink going for these days?

  3. Thanks Dave, a good refresher from last time we spoke!! I have set several mink sets out this year and still have yet to connect. I am positive though it is because of my trapping schedule I cannot keep the traps set for more than a couple days at a time. So with them traveling so much it makes it hard to connect. So far I have picked up 6 rats though from bottom edges were you and I set last year. No one trapped it this year and I know there is more fur out there but I haven't the time or money to set a longer line this year. Hope your line is keeping you busy and thanks again for a great post!
  4. Dave, what do you do if your traping small ponds where the water is frozen? I have placed several traps where I have in the past seen mink tracks and they seem to keep changing where they are traviling. I'm using 110 conibears placed in tunnels or around root systems or any other type of place where I have seen them traviling. Next weekend I'm going to try and place some cut up pieces of muskrat for bait (I just got my first one). Any help would be appreciated. I have seen fresh tracks every time out and have yet to connect on one of these little buggers.
  5. Frank,

    Congratulations on the muskrat!

    Muskrat meat makes excellent mink bait, especially after freeze up.

    If you are seeing mink tracks, then you should be able to find a good location to make a baited cubby set for the mink. On a pond it does get a little more difficult to make mink sets. But if there are muskrat houses, then you might be able to find a natural cubby around the edge of the muskrat house to make a 110 conibear set.

    If there is any feeder or exit stream from the pond that does not freeze, then you definitely need to set some traps at these locations. Because a mink always likes to get his feet a little wet, even in the coldest weather.

    Otherwise, just try to find a pinch spot along the mink's normal travel route where you can set your 110 conibear. I know for a fact that NorthCountry has had excellent success making dry blind sets with 110's for mink this season. You might try sending him a PM to get some first hand info on how he goes about making this type of shoreline blind set.
  6. I saw a mink that looked over 3 feet long the other morning crusing the edge of a river i hunt. Is this a big mink? I know nothing about trapping but i'd like to give it a go. I'd love to get a mink mounted.
    Help greatly appreciated.
  7. 3 ft. long,that would be a monster mink!!!
    You could have possibly seen a river otter.
    Mink are more about 18-21",give or take ,at least the ones I've caught.
  8. it was in oakland co. i dont think weve got otters here, do we? Im tellin ya, the thing looked like a long dark house cat with a short tail. My buddy said it was a mink. coulda been 2.5 feet nost to tail maybe?
  9. I will say one thing male mink are a lot bigger in the LP than in the UP, but three feet long would be huge alright! OT
  10. Firefighter

    Yes Oakland county has river otter traveling around now. Before we lost the snow I found slides and sign in a area not too far from White lake.

  11. Since Liv4trapin started a thread with the bottom edge set(BE) I thought it'd be a good time for me to talk about it a little. Just a reminder that my comments only reflect my opinion based on my personal experiences and my observations using the BE.

    Most folks using this set have read Smythe's book and it's a pretty darn good one. I've noticed that since the book has been out the bottom edge term has taken different directions then Smythe described in his book. This is natural and it allows for different spins/interpretations of the set which actually makes it evolve.

    In general terms, where the bottom of a creek, ditch, river, bridge, etc. meets the vertical bank of other vertical structure is indeed a bottom edge. This bottom-meets-vertical it seems has somewhat replaced the more specific description of Smythe's where he talks about bank protrusions or outside corners. Something that sticks out far enough from the bank to block the view of a mink while swimming submerged.

    IMHO I believe there are two main reasons WHY a mink is swimming underwater let alone being caught in a BE, especially the protrusion-type that I favor. One is that the mink is hunting and the second is that a mink traveling on the shore/bank encounters a large, impassable, shoreline/structure such as a root ball, a bank slough-off (especially if it's held together by roots, etc..

    It's the hunting aspect of the mink that I feel gives folks using this set the most problems. It's human nature to look for every spot of vertical structure and shoreline/bank protrusions and plaster them with body grips. Sooner of later you'll probably catch mink because out of all that you set, you undoubtedly set some that had the WHY built into them. They don't search for the reason WHY the mink would be swimming along or around a particular protrusion then others adjacent. Just because there's a protrusion from the shore/bank doesn't mean that a mink will swim there! In fact it's been my observation that most are never used by mink (I'm not talking about muskrats where ALL can be used) because they don't have anything to do with the mink finding and catching prey!

    Another aspect that I think is being forgotten concerning the BE is trap placement. Again, Smythe mentions this in his book and I've found it to be absolutely correct! Even today with the advent of folks, including myself, using 160-size traps, trap placement under protrusions needs to be recognized as still a critical part of using the BE.

    Here is an example of the traps I use and the modifications I've found work best for me. The 160-size trap is this years experiment.

    Since the big thaw of a week or so ago, my water level has gone up and allowed me to set up two of my favorite BE's which over the years have produced a mink or two apiece each year. Also, they're on my canine line.:D

    Northside 1 BE-
    Two mink were taken from this BE this week. If you look close you'll see a stick I'm using to prop up the sod protrusion so it won't foul the 160-size trap that I'm using. Normally I use a 110 here and not worry about the sod but I told a friend, who advised me to give them a try, that I use this size tarp as much as possible and give it a fair test. In the case of each catch, I could have used a trap 1/2 the size of a #55 because each was tight against the inside jaws. They could have been leaving a mud trail behind them as they rounded the corner by rubbing their shoulders against the bank they were so tight to it!!

    The WHY this is a bonified BE is that just to the left the bank is vertical except it's pocked with nooks & crannies, roots an old rat feeder, lots of rocks and it's an eddy off the current and holds minnows! All prey holding and hiding habitat!!!;)

    Southside 2 BE-
    Same prey habitat as before but to the right of the protrusion of tree & roots and right of the large chunk of concrete.
    One mink was caught here this week but almost was a miss even with a 160-size trap. Since most of my BE's are set with me bending over at the waist and reaching back and under, the actual trap placement is by feel. I missed my spot by about 4"!!! and caught the mink right against the outside jaws rather then in the center!! I recognized my screw-up as soon as I saw the mink because I knew this location and sure enough just to the right of where I placed the trap was a bulge in the bank that I'd forgotten about and where my trap was suppose to be placed. Almost cost me a miss just as Smythe stated in his book. If I'd been using a 110, I'd undoubtedly missed that mink!!!

    Both sides in one shot-

    A final word:
    All I've tried to do here is show and explain as best I can WHY BE's work for me and the thought process and principle I use!:D
  12. Thanks for the insight on the BE Seldom. The pics are great and really help
    paint the picture better. I look foward to expanding my use of the BE in upcoming seasons. I ordered Smythe's book yesterday.

  13. Good,;) I think it'll prove to be an "eye-opener" and a money-maker because from what I can see in your photos, you've got some nice water to put the info to work!;);)
  14. Here's a photo of a BE location that produced 1 or two mink a year along with a handful of rats for two years in a row. For the past three years though, not a single mink or rat has been caught there. The actual trap set location is at the foot of the middle ash tree in the cluster of three.
    What you don't see in the photo is a large pile of debris just upstream (to the right) that was swept away three springs ago. Also gone are the old rat dens and one feeder that were in the vertical bank behind and underneath the pile. The spring ice that year swept not only the debris away but scoured the bank in such a manner that it no longer has any vertical face to it. With the face gone, so went all of the pockets, the dens, and feeder! There is no prey habitat left to give a mink a reason to hunt that area! Hence, a dead BE location!!

    When the pile was there I was able during the lowest water level point of the summer, investigate what was behind it and ascertain that the clump of ash trees immediately downstream would be the perfect BE location.
  15. i do appreciate the be posts you changed my thinking on it i havent read that book maybee i should and i probably will. but those arnt ash looks like bass wood. sorry im new back to trapping but old into lumber.

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