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Area wild rice harvest challenging

Wild rice harvesting season occurs annually between Aug. 15 and Sept. 30 and wildlife managers from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say it's shaping up to be a challenging harvest season.

The wild rice crop is expected to be average to below average in all of Carlton County, southern St. Louis County and northern Pine County.

More than 1,200 lakes and rivers in 54 counties contain wild rice, with concentrations of rice being the highest in Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Itasca and St. Louis counties. But harvestable stands of rice can be found from the Canadian border down to the metro area.

"This year, wild rice conditions are variable across much of the state," said Ann Geisen, DNR wildlife lake specialist. "In some parts of the state, rice stands are poor due to lots of rain and flooding. But in other parts of the state, the rice is looking really good."

Peak harvesting dates are estimated to be in late August to early September as long as weather remains mild and dry. Like other forms of gathering, finding a mentor who is willing to share skills and knowledge can greatly improve success. Scouting lakes ahead of time can also be very helpful for finding harvestable stands of rice and locating access sites.

Minnesota's green rice law makes it illegal to harvest unripe or "green" rice. So even though rice beds may look like they are maturing well, ricers must make sure the grain is ripe before attempting to harvest it.