How to make a Pocket Set

How to make a Pocket Set

            One of the most basic sets a trapper can make is the pocket set. Not only is it fast and easy, it’s also very effective for multiple different species. With just a standard pocket set you will open up the opportunity to catch muskrats, mink, raccoons, and the occasional otter.  In the following article I will explain in depth how to make a pocket set as well as different bait, lures, and equipment used.

When making a pocket set you will only need a few couple different tools. First will be a normal tile spade that is about six inches wide. These can be found at any hardware store. You will want to sharpen the spade with either a file or grinder. By doing so you will be able to cut through the grass and roots more efficiently. If you want a smaller tool that fits better in a trap basket, a good quality trowel will work well. The second tool needed is just a hammer such as the Sod Buster to drive your stakes in when you’re dealing with a rocky bottom. I spray paint my tools a bright orange to reduce the risk of leaving them at a set. The only other item you might want is a good pair of gauntlets to protect your hands and keep them dry. I’ve tried many different brands and prefer the Atlas Gauntlets.

As far as traps go, the Bridger 1.5 coilspring is my go-to. It works great for rats, coon, mink, and has the power to hold even the largest otter. The pan is night latched which makes setting the trap very fast.  Another pro of using the Bridger 1.5 is the price, in my opinion it’s the best trap for the price point. The Duke 1.5 is also a great trap, although I like to replace the factor pan with Wild River pans. Both traps will get the job done, as well as variety of others on the market today.

Staking systems comes down to personal preference. In Minnesota if you choose to stake the foothold trap in a non-drowning matter you have to check the set daily, whereas if you run a drowning cable you have option to check it every 72 hours.  This is a big plus because it allows you to run more traps if you like. Personally, I almost always run downers. Not only because of the three-day checks, but because it keeps the catch away from the eyes of the public and therefor reducing the number of traps tampered with or stolen. The downfall of running drowning cables is that they can become a tangled mess and also the fact that you need carry around two stakes for every set. Make sure to always consult your local and state laws when determining if you want to run drowners.

If you chose to just stake the trap with out the slide wire, your best option will be a 3/8” rebar stake that is 24-30” long depending on your soil conditions. Always run the stake in at an angle towards the bank so that if your catch climbs the bank it is not able to pull straight up and thus getting away. Not only do you lose your trap and catch, it’s also unethical and we should do everything possible to prevent it. Some people choose to run two stakes, one connected to the trap chain and then a T stake (the tangle stake) 1-2’ away from the set. When the animal gets caught it will get the trap chain tangled up in the second stake, which will keep it away from your pocket and preserve it for when you reset the trap.  

Using a drowning setup is very simple and can be setup a few different ways. I prefer using the IronTrail Slide Wires, a 1/8” 7x7 cable with a slide lock and an adjustable loop at each end. The trap can be attached to easily it with any heavy duty S hook. On the bank side of the slide wire I use a 24” regular rebar trap stake pounded all the way down to the bottom of the stream. You don’t want to use a T stake at the top because there is a chance that the trap chain will get wrapped around it and in turn it won’t let the animal slide down the cable. At the bottom of the cable I use a 30” T bar stake. I like the T because it easier to shove down into the bottom with your foot. Always have the slide wire pointed into the water at a slight downstream angle so that the current works in your favor.

Bait and lure are an essential part of the pocket sets performance. For lures I prefer IronTrail's Mississippi Mink, although there are 100s of different commercially made lures you can choose from. Try a few different ones and find out which ones work best for you. When it comes to bait you can either use your own or buy a commercially made bait.  If you’re a do it yourselfer, chunks of fresh fish such are carp is hard to beat. Just cut it up before the season and freeze it. You can use a preservative and add in other stuff, but that’s a whole article in and of itself. If you choose to go with a pre made bait, Caven’s Coon and Mink Bait or Kaatz Bros Black Label is hard to beat. I also use IronTrail Fish or Salmon Oil at all of my pocket sets.  Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to get out there and build some pocket sets and put some fur in the truck!

Making a pocket set is pretty simple and wants you’ve made a few it’s very fast. Once you find a river or lake with good sigh, you want to look for a bank that is at least 12-18” high. Once found, take your spade or trowel and dig a hole that is about 6” in diameter and 12-18” deep. I prefer a deeper pocket because it’s my belief that it keeps the animal interested longer, but the size of the pocket is personal preference. I like to shave off the bank a bit to make it almost straight up and down, plus this give it some eye appeal.  Once the pocket is dug you will want to put your bait in the far back, either on a dirt ledge out of the water or nailed to the back wall. I like to have it visible for eye appeal. If you’re using a ground up bait, just put it in a wad of grass and shove it in the back. You can either put your lure on a stick in the pocket or right at the entrance.

            Once baited you can stake your trap and setup the drowning rig if applicable.  As far as trap placement goes, I like to put it tight against the pocket and in the center so that a mink can’t hug the side of the pocket and miss it.  Make sure that your trap is bedded very solid and the pan is about an inch or two under the surface of the water. Push the loose chain into the bottom so that a raccoon won’t grab it out of curiosity when working the set. Now that your done with the set just squirt some fish oil on the bank and move on to the next set.

            Pocket sets are very basic, so don’t over think the construction of it. Just make sure you’re in a location with fur and start hammering them in.  I always gang set them when running my road line. If I’m trapping a bridge I’ll have a pocket on both sides of the river of each side of the bridge, or more if the sign deems it necessary. There is nothing more thrilling than pulling up to a bridge and seeing multiple animals floating in the water waiting for you. I hope this helps you on your line and allows you to catch more fur this season! If you have any questions give us a call or shoot us an email and we’ll be glad to help in any way we can.

Luke Jackson