Abstract Interannual variation of winter copepod biomass during the last three decades of the twentieth century was examined in the Kuroshio, off central Japan in relation to climate regime shifts. The biomass levels of large copepods in the period before 1977 and in 1999 and 2000 were higher than those in the period between 1977 and 1998. The biomass of large copepods was positively related with the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), in winter in the Northern Hemisphere, which also showed steplike shifts in 1976/77 and 1998/99. The biomass of large copepods was largely influenced by abundance of Calanus sinicus that has high rates of production compared with small copepods under food satiated conditions. Accordingly, the climatic regime shift accompanied by the climatic change in the tropical region seems to regulate interannual variation of winter biomass of large copepods in the Kuroshio through effects on food supply. There is less decadal variablity in the small copepod (SC) biomass than large copepod (LC) biomass, but more variablity in SC than in LC at periods 2–4 years. In contrast to the large copepods, the biomass of small copepods was not related to global climate indices but with the local climate factors such as SST in the Kuroshio and variability in the Kuroshio flow path. Causes for the differences in the biomass trends between large and small copepods are discussed.