Yellow perch fishing is a rite of fall on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake, as savvy anglers tap the inbound migration of sag-bellied jumbos intent on mowing down young-of-the-year baitfish.

While the fish aren’t in the shallows quite yet, Lindy guide and Mille Lacs guru Mike Christensen says the action is already picking up in a bit deeper water.

“Perch fishing has been decent the past three weeks,” he says. “We’re mainly seeing 9- to 11-inchers, but there are a few 12s mixed in.”

Top areas include deep weeds and rock-to-mud transitions in depths of 12 to 23 feet. “Edges of the main lake, adjacent to the bays, are the best,” he said.

Christensen recommends setting up in fish-holding areas with slip-bobber rigs. He favors a Thill Pro Series Slip Float with a 1/32-ounce Lindy Jig tipped with a leech or minnow.

As the water cools, Christensen expects perch to continue their annual autumn pilgrimage into even shallower water. “We typically see them move into near-shore weedbeds in six to 12 feet when the water hits the mid to upper 40s,” he added.

The late-season perch bite can be especially rewarding. “The best is definitely yet to come,” he said.

Christensen also reports that smallmouth bass are also on the bite. While a variety of bass presentations are triggering strikes, he says slip-bobbering is also producing plenty of bronzebacks.

“We’re catching lots of incidental walleyes while perch and bass fishing, which is always fun — and good to see for the future of the lake,” he said.

Northern pike are another option for anglers looking for the big bite.

“The past week, the northeast corner of the lake has been kicking out some quality fish in the 38- to 42-inch range,” he says. “Not limits, but you have a decent shot at catching a giant.”

Pike fans would do well to troll large Lindy River Rockers and M/G Muskie Tandem spinnerbaits along deep weedlines in eight to 14 feet of water, he said.