August 27, 2013
MADISON - After three consecutive years of below average wild rice production across the north, the 2013 outlook is not much different. Early reports from aerial surveys indicate mixed results in rice production amongst known rice producing waters.
Some lakes appear to have better than average production, while most others appear to have less rice than historic presence, according to Jason Fleener, a wetlands biologist with the Department of Natural Resources. Overall, harvest is expected to be below the long-term average in 2013, but production appears to be a little better than 2012.
Fleener says wild rice productivity is influenced by several factors including climate, water quality, invasive species, wave action, and water level manipulation caused by humans and beaver. The presence of brown spot, a fungal disease that negatively affects rice production, does not appear to be very prevalent this year according to aerial surveys. This may be attributed to cooler weather during the growing season.
September 1 is often the time one can expect to find ripe rice ready for harvest. However, Fleener says, rice may still be "green" in many areas come September 1 this year. A prolonged winter has resulted in a later growing season and later maturity of the seed.
Wild Rice waters are divided into two separate categories for harvest: date-regulated, and non-date-regulated. A total of 51 date-regulated lakes are only located within the Chippewa Indian Ceded Territory in northern Wisconsin, in off-reservation areas. The exception is Lake Noquebay, a date-regulated lake outside of the Ceded Territory.
Date-regulated lakes will have "opening" harvest dates that are determined jointly by DNR and tribal officials. The season length will run 60 consecutive days on these lakes. All date-regulated lakes will be posted at boat landings at least 24 hours in advance of the opener. Lake openers and a list of date-regulated lakes will also be posted at Wisconsin DNR Service Centers located within the Northern Region, and on the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, wild rice Web page [both links exit DNR] at least 24 hours prior to season openers. Several date-regulated lakes are expected to be closed for the season in 2013 due to absence or lack of wild rice.
All other waters in the state are not date-regulated. Rice harvesters may harvest rice on these waters whenever they feel rice is ready to harvest with the appropriate equipment. State Wildlife managers recommend to harvest rice only when it's ripe. Attempting to harvest rice in a green or immature stage will likely cause damage to the plants, reducing the harvestable crop and seed source needed to generate more rice in future years. Rice is considered ripe when it drops from the plant after a gentle stroke from a wooden flail.
All waters, date-regulated and non-date-regulated, may only be harvested between the hours of 10 a.m. and sunset.
Wild rice harvest is only permitted to Wisconsin state residents. Harvesters between the ages of 17-64 must purchase a wild rice license harvest license for $8.25 at any DNR licensing location. Immediate family members of a licensed harvester, living in the same household, may obtain a wild rice identification card for free at a DNR licensing location. Those who wish to sell rice must apply for a wild rice dealers permit from the Wisconsin DNR.
Rice must be harvested from a canoe or boat that is no longer than 17 feet in length, and no wider than 38 inches. Canoes or boats must be propelled manually by a push-pole or canoe paddle. Wild rice must be harvested using smooth, rounded wooden sticks or rods (flails) no longer than 38 inches. These sticks are used to gently bend the rice stalks and then to gently rake, stroke or tap the seed head until ripened seeds drop. Only a few kernels ripen on any given day with additional rice kernels progressively ripening over an average of three weeks.
Additional details on wild rice can be found by searching for wild rice on the DNR website.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Fleener, DNR Wetland Habitat Biologist, Madison, 608-266-7408