Contact(s): Jason Fleener, DNR wetland habitat specialist, 608-266-7408
MADISON - Wild rice abundance reports across northern Wisconsin vary only slightly from 2016 for the 2017 ricing season. For the second year in a row, reports from the field note this year's rice crop is well below average across the state, though a small handful of lakes contain harvestable rice beds.
"Harvesting wild rice in Wisconsin this year will require early scouting and information gathering," said Jason Fleener, Department of Natural Resources wetland habitat specialist. "Ricers may find that lakes in the northwest region of the state are faring a bit better than lakes in the Oneida and Vilas county region."
With poor rice conditions this year, Fleener suggests speaking to local ricers or rice finishers as a good way to find out when and where rice is available for harvesting. In general, rice may mature later than usual on most lakes this year. With late maturation and poor rice conditions this year, it is even more important than usual to avoid harvesting too early.
"Picking before the rice has fully matured not only reduces the viability of seed that falls into the lake, but it leads to poorer harvests and poorer finishing rice," Fleener added.
Wild rice waters are divided into two categories for harvest in Wisconsin: date-regulated and non-date-regulated. Date-regulated lakes are located within the Chippewa Indian Ceded Territory in off-reservation areas in the northern part of the state. Ricers are reminded that the date regulation rules on Lake Noquebay in Marinette County have been repealed, allowing rice gathering to occur at the discretion of the gatherer.
Opening harvest dates for date-regulated waters are determined jointly by DNR and Chippewa tribal officials. All date-regulated waters are posted at access points at least 24 hours in advance of opening day. Unfortunately, many date-regulated waters will be closed for the 2017 season due to failed rice crops or poor rice conditions. These closures protect and replenish seed stock and help promote rice growth in future years.
A list of date-regulated lakes with harvesting status can be found on the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission's Off Reservation Wild Rice Management web page [Exit DNR]. This webpage provides rice abundance information for each body of water listed based on annual aerial and ground survey information.
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 encouraged to check local land ownership records or with DNR, and request permission from land owners before beginning their harvest within these areas.
For more information regarding wild rice licensing and harvest regulations, visit the Wisconsin DNR's homepage and search keywords "wild rice."
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.