You Can’t Catch What Isn’t There


Choosing where to trap is
important to a longliner’s success


This is an excerpt from Serge Lariviére’s article “5 Lessons of the Longliner,” which appeared in the April-May 2014 Trapper & Predator Caller issue.

By Serge Lariviére

Some guys are awesome trappers. They plan things right, work hard, get up early, go to bed late, keep their optimism up and never give up. Yet, at the end of the day, their catch is just normal. Then, across the country or even across the county, there is a normal guy, doing just average stuff, spending a bit of time here and there between a bunch of other things, and his catch is twice yours. Ouch, that really hurts. And I will let you in on what I think is trapping biggest secret: You can’t catch what’s not there.

Animal populations fluctuate in time, from one year to the next, but they also fluctuate in space, from one area to the next. Western guys catch 30 coyotes in snares on a good day, whereas Eastern guys are happy to catch 30 in a season. Arkansas mink trappers find 100 mink to be a good catch, whereas Maine trappers think 50 is a lifetime achievement. Otter trappers down South laugh when they hear Canadians excited about catch 10 to 15 otters a season, and so on. But the best marten trapper in the world would suck at marten trapping if he lived in Iowa, and the big-name raccoon longliners would be depressed if they moved to northern Ontario.

Longliners and big-number guys have learned this rapidly in their careers, but they are still reminded regularly. A good catch is not only the result of everything you control, but also what you have for animal populations to begin with. Large catches occur in areas where animal populations are high, and if you catch lots where there are not many, you can be proud, but you could double your catch by doing the same thing in another state, province, area or county. I get excited to see a muskrat lodge. They simply are extremely rare where I live, but I have friends that trap several hundreds. It depends where you live and how the animal populations are fluctuating.

I have been guilty of working overly hard to catch a decent number of raccoons in my area of Quebec. If I compare trap numbers and effort, I worked like a madman compared to the guy who caught the same number in Iowa, part-timing on his way to work. So if you want to rock the world with your catch, you better do your research and start choosing where you trap carefully.


Serge Lariviére’s full article appeared in the April-May 2014 Trapper & Predator Caller issue.

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