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Wild rice season now open, but harvesters must ensure rice is ripe

With the 2023 wild rice season now open, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds harvesters that rice stands must be ripe before they can be legally harvested.

Wild rice harvesters going out during the upcoming season will find generally good conditions throughout much of Minnesota.

As people consider harvesting, they need to know the regulations that help protect wild rice stands for future years. Harvesters are allowed to take ripe wild rice each year during the harvesting season that runs between Aug. 15 and Sept. 30, but Minnesota’s green rice law makes it illegal to harvest unripe or “green” rice, even within the dates of the harvest season. So, although rice beds might look like they are ready, ricers must make sure the grain is ripe and falling easily from the stalk before attempting to harvest it.

Early reports from Minnesota DNR and tribal biologists indicate average to great rice stands across central and northern Minnesota, but conditions are variable for individual waters.

The Minnesota DNR has posted a wild rice conditions report online. The conditions report is available each year on the Minnesota DNR’s wild rice management webpage, along with license, regulation and safety information.

Harvesters usually use a canoe with a push pole or paddles for power, and collect rice using two sticks, or flails, to knock mature seeds into the canoe.

Harvesters should keep access areas clean by packing out what they pack in. To prevent spreading invasive species, ricers should make sure their canoe and gear is clean before arriving at the rice lake. Before heading out, harvesters should plan for how the rice will be processed. Novice rice harvesters are often advised to use a processor rather than attempt to process it themselves.

A significant portion of the wild rice is located within Ojibwe reservations or treaty ceded territory.

It is unlawful for any person to take wild rice grain from any of the waters within the original boundaries at the White Earth, Leech Lake, Nett Lake, Vermilion Lake, Grand Portage, Fond du Lac and Mille Lacs reservations except for Native Americans or residents within the reservation from which the rice is collected.

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