Wisconsin Wild Rice Crops Look Healthy Despite High Waters

Great Lakes Indian Fish And Wildlife Commission Survey Finds Most Beds Are Doing Well

A rice bed in Three Lakes. Photo: Megan Khines (CC-BY-NC-SA).

Wisconsin’s wild rice crop appears to be doing well, despite high water levels on northern lakes and rivers this past spring.

The finding comes from aerial and ground surveys conducted by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

“We’re generally encouraged by finding some pretty nice rice stands out there,” said Peter David, a biologist with GLIFWC. “We were concerned that all the high water from this spring was going to have some pretty negative impacts, but it looks like in a number of areas, the rice came through that just fine.”

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David said high water can shut down germination in wild rice plants or keep them from breaking the surface and producing seed. Though the overall rice crop looks good, David said some rice beds were hampered by the heavy rains.

“Certainly some of the big areas of the northwest, like the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, which has substantial rice beds on it some years … struggled with all the water they had to deal with and this year those beds don’t look very good,” he said.

Though wild rice ripens at different times on different bodies of water, David said the harvest season is right around the corner.

“There are probably a few bodies of water that are going to be ready to go this weekend, I would think, maybe even a few places that are ready right now,” he said. “The river systems tend to mature earlier than the lakes and so I’m not expecting a lot of harvesting off of the lake sites, probably for another week to 10 days.”

Wisconsin residents planning on harvesting wild rice this season must first buy an annual license from the Department of Natural Resources.

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