If you are new to gold prospecting, here’s a head’s up for you. You have probably heard a lot of tips about how to prospect gold, but rarely have I seen anyone mention gold trapping, although I know many prospectors practice trapping.
During run-off season water is rushing too fast to do any panning. You can however set “traps” in areas you think might produce gold. By doing so you can save much time later in deciding where is and where isn’t a great place to pan. As any experienced prospector knows, just because a spot on a creek looks good to prospect doesn’t mean it is, and knowing which ones are productive ahead of panning season is a great help.
To set a trap you will still want to find areas in the waterways that current is slowing down enough to drop small particles of gold. Just under small waterfalls is a great place to put a trap. A sluice box is a good item to use for a trap under a small waterfall. As the water flows over the edge of the fall and into the sluice box, the gold which would have usually fallen onto the streambed and worked it’s way underneath will be caught at the bottom of your sluice box instead. Later you can just pan through your sluice box to see if it contains gold. If it does, you know where to pan for all the gold that has been dropped in that area before you got there to check things out.
If you see an area in a creek that a rapid current slows significantly enough to drop gold particles, you will want to place the trap right where the current begins to slow. a ribbed sluice will do the trick for many areas. You will want to put something at the front of the trap that will will slow the water hitting it and redirect the current around it. A sheet of metal or a rock will serve this purpose. Gold will hit the blocade and fall into the trap as the water is slowed. Later in the season as water levels fall and slow down you can pull that trap out of the water and check it for gold particles.
When panning season comes around you will only need to pull your traps to find which areas will be productive places to begin your panning or dredging. You get to spend your time panning the gold instead of searching for places that you might find gold if you pan. You should place at least three or four traps in varied locations. The more you place, the more likely you will be to find a productive location to begin prospecting later. Check your traps periodically and if you find they are not producing any gold, move them to a different location.
A last note about placing traps, though, is that you want to place them where others are not likely to run across them before you get back to them. Find spots that you can monitor with ease. Whenever possible, set the trap in a way it won’t be noticed by someone just walking by the trap. Your aim is not to help someone else locate the mother lode.