Aurora Bassmasters plant wild rice in Simcoe

GEORGINA ISLAND, Ontario — Wild rice has been extinct in Lake Simcoe since the 1930s. The Aurora Bassmasters have re-introduced the native plant to the fishery in order to provide good fry habitat.

"The club partnered with several key stakeholders to undertake this project in 2012," explained Wil Wegman of the Aurora Bassmasters.

"Work involved site selection, and a key area with food habitat conditions was chosen near the local First Nations community at Georgina Island," continued Wegman. "The Chippewas of Georgina became a major partner and, together with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Georgina Sportsman Alliance and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Zone G,the planting of wild rice seeds was carried out in fall 2012.

"Wild rice will need to remain dormant throughout the winter and hopefully by early summer 2013, evidence of this native plant will once again be seen in Lake Simcoe," Wegman added. "Wild rice plants offer ideal nursery habitat for juvenile fish and are also favored by adult warmwater species such as bass, pike and muskie. Waterfowl also favor wild rice beds."

This long-term pilot project will continue for a minimum of three years. The club has now partnered with Lakehead University in Orillia Ontario, which is researching the abilities of wild rice to sequestor phosphorus within the watershed.

In all, 15 volunteers participated, working a total of 35 man-hours. The club added 3 acres of habitat to the lake and raised $2,000 for the effort. Volunteers planted $700 worth of northern strain wild rice seeds. Club members also spoked to several groups about this project to educate anglers about the importance of wild rice plants within the aquatic community.