Diel and distributional abundance patterns of free embryos and larvae of fishes in the lower Columbia River Basin were investigated. Ichthyoplankton samples were collected in 1993 during day and night in the main-channel and a backwater of the lower Columbia River, and in a tributary, the Deschutes River. Fish embryos and larvae collected in the main-channel Columbia River were primarily (85.6%) of native taxa (peamouth Mylocheilus caurinus, northern squawfish Ptychocheilus oregonensis, suckers Catostomus spp., and sculpins Cottus spp.), with two introduced species (American shad Alosa sapidissima and common carp Cyprinus carpio) comprising a smaller percentage of the catch (13.3%). Similarly, in the Deschutes River native taxa [lampreys (Petromyzontidae), minnows (Cyprinidae), and suckers Catostomus spp.] dominated collections (99.5% of the catch). In contrast, 83.5% of embryos and larvae in the Columbia River backwater were of introduced taxa [American shad, common carp, and sunfishes (Centrarchidae)]. In all locations, all dominant taxa except sculpins were collected in significantly greater proportions at night. Taxon-specific differences in proportions of embryos and larvae collected at night can in some instances be related to life history styles. In the main-channel Columbia River, northern squawfish and peamouth were strongly nocturnal and high proportions still had yolksacs, suggesting that they had recently hatched and were drifting downriver to rearing areas. In contrast, sculpin abundances were similar during day and night, and sculpins mostly had depleted yolksacs, indicating sculpins were feeding and rearing in offshore limnetic habitats. Taxon-specific diel abundance patterns and their causes must be considered when designing effective sampling programs for fish embryos and larvae.