Diel feeding patterns of herring Clupea harengus and mackerel Scomber scombrus in the southern Gulf of St Lawrence were examined based on samples obtained by midwater trawling between 19 and 26 June 2001. Within 3 h time periods, stomach contents tended to be more similar between fish from the same tow than between fish from different tows. Thus, in contrast to previous diet studies, which have used individual fish stomachs as independent observations, tow was used as the experimental unit in statistical analyses in this study. Diel patterns in stomach fullness were identified using generalized additive models. Two peaks in stomach fullness occurred for herring, one in the morning and the other in the evening. Mackerel showed an increase in feeding intensity throughout the day with a peak in mid-afternoon. The diel changes in stomach contents suggested rapid gastric evacuation rates for both species, especially for herring. The estimate of the instantaneous evacuation rate for herring was twice that for mackerel. Calanus copepods (mainly C. hyperboreus), fishes (mainly capelin Mallotus villosus) and euphausiids were the main prey found in the stomachs of both species. Calanus copepods dominated the diet of herring regardless of time period. They also dominated the diet of mackerel during the late afternoon, evening and night while fishes and euphausiids were dominant during the morning and early afternoon. These diel patterns emphasize the need for sampling throughout the day and night in order to estimate ration and diet composition for bioenergetic and ecosystem models.