February’s final stretch is providing anglers on Minnesota’s mighty Mille Lacs Lake opportunities to hook up with sag-bellied jumbo yellow perch, as well as reel in good numbers of feisty walleyes.

“Smaller walleyes, in the 13- to 16-inch range, are biting really well right now,” Lindy pro and longtime guide Mike Christensen of Hunter Winfield’s Resort in Isle said. “We’re also seeing a few keepers in the slot, along with the occasional bigger fish in the mix.”

Top locations include deep gravel, mud flats and shoreline breaks in 22 to 30 feet of water, Christensen says. “I’ve been doing well on south-end gravel humps, particularly when the fish move up on top toward sunset,” he added.

Christensen’s go-to walleye baits include a 1/8-ounce Lindy Frostee Spoon or 1/16-ounce Rattl’n Flyer Spoon tipped with a minnow head.

“These smaller fish are aggressive and fun to catch,” he said. “A buddy of mine left a spoon and minnow head sitting six feet off bottom while he warmed up his truck, and a walleye nearly pulled the rod and reel down the hole.”

Perch have also been on the bite, including a few jumbos in the 13- to 14-inch range. “Most of the big ones have come from the deep shoreline breaks on the northeast to north side of the lake,” he says, noting that depths of 28 to 33 feet have been yielding the best catches. “Be prepared to drill plenty of holes and hop around looking for fish.”

Deep mud also holds a few big perch. “If you set up on the bottom of a flat for a day, you might catch two or three tullibees, a couple fat perch and 20 walleyes for your efforts,” he says.

Christensen expects the perch bite to continue in deep water well after walleye season closes at the end of the month.

“My guess is we’ve got at least a good month of deep-water perch fishing left before the big ones move shallow at last ice,” he said. “There are already lots of smaller perch in shallow water, but the jumbos typically wait until the bitter end to come in.”