We quantified temporal and spatial variability of zooplankton in three potential nursery sites (river, transition zone, lake) for larval striped bass (Morone saxatilis) in Lake Marion, South Carolina, during April and May 1993-1995. In two of three years, microzooplankton (rotifers and copepod nauplii) density was significantly greater in the lake site than in the river or transition zone. Macrozooplankton (>200 ??m) composition varied among the three sites in all years with adult copepods and cladocerans dominant at the lake, and juvenile Corbicula fluminea dominant at the river and transition zone. Laboratory feeding experiments, simulating both among-site (site treatments) and within-site (density treatments) variability, were conducted in 1995 to quantify the effects of the observed zooplankton variability on foraging success of larval striped bass. A greater proportion of larvae fed in the lake than in the river or transition-zone treatments across all density treatments: mean (x), 10x and 100x. Larvae also ingested significantly more dry mass of prey in the lake treatment in both the mean and 10x density treatments. Field zooplankton and laboratory feeding data suggest that both spatial and temporal variability of zooplankton influence larval striped bass foraging. Prey density levels that supported successful foraging in our feeding experiments occurred in the lake during late April and May in 1994 and 1995 but were never observed in the river or transition zone. Because the rivers flowing into Lake Marion are regulated, it may be possible to devise flow management schemes that facilitate larval transport to the lake and thereby increase the proportion of larvae matched to suitable prey resources.