I have been fortunate enough to trap many thousands of beaver in the past 40 years. Most of these have been trapped on moving water (rivers and streams) with big foot hold traps. I've made many mistakes and learned by trial & error. It is important to always remember to protect the bank side when placing your trap. A beaver approaching your lure from the upstream side is going to float past your set and then come back to it tight to the bank. A beaver swimming up stream is also going to make his final approach tight to the bank. Many beaver trappers are concerned how far their trap is out from their castor mound but don't pay attention to the beavers approach and miss as the beaver comes in between the bank and the trap. First off, I set for and catch 90% of my beaver by the hind foot. That is important to understand and consider as we go forward. I've heard and read a lot about being so many inches back and so many inches to the right or left but this changes dramatically with your water depth and whether or not you are in fast moving, slow moving, or stagnant water as in the case of a beaver pond or on a lake. The deeper that you are set, the closer your trap needs to be to the bank. The positioning of your castor mound on the bank also dictates where your trap goes. One thing that drives me crazy is having traps out of commission by either having them way too deep when the water rises or on dry land when the water receeds. I have probably caught 75% of my beaver in the spring and the water level is very rarely stable. Being I usually start setting as soon as the ice is gone I will have maybe 3-4 days of rising water and then a extended period of dropping water levels. If I'm certain that the water is going to rise a few inches or more a day I will naturally set shallow (around 2" deep) and I will be ok if the water rises as much as another 10-14". I trap way more days of water dropping then rising in the spring and this is where I often times see the competition getting beat up. I have found that when using big footholds that are properly placed and bedded that I can catch beaver in sets made much deeper then most would believe. I run all drowning sets and generally on a two or three day check, the water can drop a bunch in 72 hours. If I believe the water may drop 6 to 10 inches before I return I will not hesitate to place my trap in 12" to 18" of water. I used to think when checking that I probably missed the beaver on the first night as the set was too deep and I picked them up on the 2nd or 3rd night. I realized that I was wrong on that thinking when I ran several 24 hour checks and found that my first night catch was very good even when the trap was a foot or more below the surface. Of course the catches were by the hind foot and a surprising number of tail catches were made. I wish I would have kept track but I'm guessing over the years I have caught something over 100 beaver by the tail in footholds. The beaver are using their tail like a third back leg for support in deep water when sniffing a castor mound. There is nothing wrong with a tail catch if you have the proper trap set to begin with. A firm bed for your beaver trap is as important as it is for coyotes. If you can visualize this I want the beaver to have his chest against the bank and the castor mound just out of reach. This will cause him to drop his hind feet and tail for support. I want my trap bed facing slightly towards the bank (not flat) so when the beaver steps on the pan the trap doesn't skid across the bottom but is fully supported. This along with a heavy pan tension (4-5 pounds) will result in full hock catches rather then toes. Empty sprung traps are basically non-existent with good bedding and heavy pan tension. Many trappers create misses by having their castor mounds too close to the waters edge. If you have your castor mound right on the water edge and have 8-10 inches of water the beaver will often simply hover over your trap and never drop his feet. As 3/4 of the beaver trapping I do is in the spring I am trying to avoid catching muskrats as season is over. I do run a different pan tension in the fall then in the spring. In the fall when I want any critter that steps on the pan I will back it down to under 2 pounds. I will also have to say that while fall beaver trapping is a minor part of my beaver catch, over 90% of my sprung and empty traps come in the fall due to the lack of pan tension. If beaver and otter are your target animals set heavy. If I could turn the clock back I would love to be a teenager again running the Minnesota River with a boat load of MB-750's or #5's instead of the #3's and #4 jump traps that I was using then. I could go on for pages on what beaver have taught me but it looks like I'm out of room. Thanks for reading and have fun chasing those flattails.
With proper bedding and pan tension this is the typical catch in a MB-750
Another one by the tail (3 this particular day). This trap was set in 10" of water. Beaver was trying to reach the castor mound and dropped his tail for support