August 26, 2014
MADISON - Reports on the abundance of wild rice across northern Wisconsin vary for the 2014 ricing season, but the season outlook is generally fair, according to state and tribal biologists. Overall, rice maturity will be later due to this year's weather patterns, and rice found within river systems may be maturing slightly earlier than rice found within lakes and flowages.
"Harvesting wild rice is a great way to obtain a local, healthy food source while enjoying the outdoors with friends and family," said Jason Fleener, wetland habitat specialist for the Department of Natural Resources. "Those hoping to find ripe rice during Labor Day weekend may have to do some homework to find areas where rice is ready for harvest."
The 2013 wild rice season resulted in a statewide harvest near the long-term average at over 30 pounds of green rice per trip.
Very few waters will contain rice that is mature for harvest by the end of August. Many waters may reach peak rice maturity later into September this year.
Scouting and research will be the key to finding good rice beds that are ready at the right time, Fleener said. Waters that were productive in recent years may be producing less rice due to a number of factors, such as nutrient cycling and changes in water flow, water levels, water quality, weather, and wave action.
Waters that were once poor rice producers may be good this year. Speaking to local ricers or rice finishers is a good way to find out when rice is ready for harvesting. Wild rice is considered ripe when it begins to fall off the stalk with little effort stroking the flails (ricing sticks) across the rice plants. If very little rice is falling with gentle effort, ricers should consider finding a new area to harvest, or consider returning at a later time to prevent damage to rice beds that are not mature.
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 located within the Chippewa Indian Ceded Territory in off-reservation areas in the northern part of the state. One exception is Lake Noquebay in Marinette County, a date-regulated lake outside of the Ceded Territory.
Opening harvest dates for date-regulated waters are determined jointly by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and tribal officials. The season will last 60 consecutive days on these waters, and all date-regulated waters will be posted at boat landings and access points at least 24 hours in advance of opening day.
Lake openers and a list of date-regulated lakes will be posted on the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission's Wild Rice website data.glifwc.org/manoomin.harvest.info [exit DNR] at least 24 hours prior to season openers. This webpage also provides rice abundance information for each body of water listed, based on aerial and ground survey information from this summer. Lake openings will be updated regularly throughout the harvest season.
Several date-regulated waters are expected to be closed for the 2014 season due to an absence or lack of rice. Closures are necessary to protect and replenish seed stock to help promote rice growth in future years.
Ricers may encounter other recreationalists on the water, including anglers, boaters, and early season teal hunters. Boaters are encouraged to respect rice beds by creating no wake in the vicinity of these beds and avoiding direct contact when possible.
For more information regarding wild rice licensing and harvest regulations, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "wild rice." Those interested in receiving wild rice updates vía email may sign up online.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Fleener, DNR wetland habitat specialist, 608-266-7408.