August 25, 2015
MADISON - Wild rice abundance reports across northern Wisconsin vary regionally for the 2015 ricing season, generally ranging from average to above-average, according to state and tribal biologists. Overall, rice maturity is occurring on time - rice found within river systems is maturing slightly earlier than rice found on lakes and flowages.
Aerial surveys suggest slightly more variability in the condition of wild rice in northwest Wisconsin, while waters in the north central and northeast regions appear less variable.
"Harvesting wild rice is a great way to gather your own food while enjoying some of the best areas of the state," said Jason Fleener, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wetland habitat specialist. "Those hoping to find ripe rice during Labor Day weekend should have luck finding areas ready for harvest."
According to Fleener, taking time to scout an area for wild rice and patience is the key to finding good rice beds. Waters that were productive in recent years may produce less rice (and vice versa) this year due to a number of factors, such as changes in water flow, water levels, water quality, weather behavior and wave action. 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 little rice is falling with minimal effort, ricers should consider finding a new area to harvest or return at a later time to prevent damage to immature rice beds.
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 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 DNR and tribal officials. Once a particular date-regulated lake is opened, the wild rice harvesting season will last 60 days. All date-regulated waters are posted at access points at least 24 hours in advance of opening day.
Several date-regulated waters will be closed for the 2015 season due to poor rice conditions. Closures protect and replenish seed stock and help promote rice growth for future years.
A list of date-regulated lakes with harvesting status can be found on the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission's wild rice website [exit DNR]. This webpage provides rice abundance information for each body of water listed based on annual aerial and ground survey information.
Ricers may encounter other recreationalists on the water, including anglers, boaters and hunters, especially during the Sept. 1-7 early teal season. Boaters are encouraged to create no wake in the vicinity of rice beds and avoid direct contact with areas that contain wild rice.
Most lakebeds throughout Wisconsin are owned by the state, thus allowing public harvest of wild rice. However, those harvesting wild rice should be aware that wild rice growing along rivers, streams and some flowages adjacent to private land may be privately owned. Ricers are strongly encouraged to check local land ownership records and ask for permission if necessary before beginning their harvest along these waterways.
The department recently updated the wild rice webpage to include new information about harvesting wild rice, including a question and answer section.
To receive email updates regarding wild rice in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled "subscribe for updates for DNR topics," then follow the prompts and select the appropriate distribution list.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Fleener, DNR wetland habitat specialist, 608-266-7408