1. Research has often focused on the pelagic areas of lakes; the littoral zone has received less attention. The few studies concerning fish distribution in littoral habitats have concentrated on stands of submersed macrophytes, whereas other littoral habitat types have seldom been investigated.
2. This study aimed to predict the occurrence of juvenile fish in several littoral habitats of a shallow lake as a function of food availability, complexity of habitat structure, water depth and substrate. Habitats comprising reed, woody structures, and two open water areas differing in depth were sampled for fish and invertebrate biomasses on two shores, over 6 months and during both daylight and at night.
3. The juvenile fish community consisted almost exclusively of 0+ and 1+ roach and perch. There was a strong diel component in habitat use, with a predominant occurrence of fish in complex habitats (mainly woody structures) during the day, and a partial migration towards the open habitats at night, more strongly expressed in roach than in perch.
4. The diet of all fish groups was relatively constant over the seasonal cycle, and was independent of habitat. There was a higher degree of planktivory in roach than in perch, but both species fed on benthic macroinvertebrates to a substantial extent.
5. According to a logistic regression model, the biomass of potential food organisms in the different habitats had little predictive effect on the spatial distribution of the fish, whereas the structural complexity of the habitats combined with the diel cycle explained about 28% of the occurrence patterns in 0+ and 1+ perch and 1+ roach.