Find the Bottlenecks When Otter Trapping

river otter

By Serge Lariviére

This is a portion of Serge Lariviére’s story “Secrets of Otter Longliners,” which appeared in the October 2014 Trapper & Predator Caller issue.

Otter trapping is not really about sets. It is all about locations. Otters are one species that can almost only be captured where they naturally go, not where we want to catch them. Unlike that trapper who can punch in a dirthole set almost anywhere, otter traps are a waste of time if they are in poor locations. Finding hot locations is key, and I would rather walk more to set a hotspot than try to improvise something by the roadside.

Believe me, I have tried it all — baited sets, eye appeal sets, curiosity sets — and although some of them might work sometimes, longliners know that the set has to work every time. It is important that the set always works because those otters might only come to your set location once during the season. I do not want to deal with a 20-percent catch rate when otters come by. I want a 90- to 100-percent catch rate.

Finding bottlenecks is the key to high success rates. Bottlenecks are locations where otter activity is naturally concentrated — places such as toilets, crossovers, slides, beaver houses and narrow locations in creeks.

Here in the Northeast, we have a lot of very wide and very narrow rocky-bottom rivers. These places are often loaded with suckers, trout, smallmouth bass and also otters. But such rivers make catching otters impossible unless you find where the otters come to shore or where they focus their fishing efforts, such as deep pools below rapids.

On a typical otter longline, it is very common to cross waterways loaded with otters and not make any sets because there are simply no good set locations. It’s great to have an abundance of otters, but it’s useless if you cannot catch them. Move on and find a bottleneck. Walk if you have to, but do not waste your time in low-odds locations. Longliners cannot afford to do that.


Lariviére’s full “Secrets of Otter Longliners” story appeared in the October 2014 Trapper & Predator Caller issue.

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