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The winter energy deficit and mortality of juvenile walleye pollock at extremely cold temperature were examined by field observations and laboratory experiments. In the Doto area, along the northern coast of Japan, juvenile walleye pollock resided on the continental shelf despite extremely cold temperatures (mean 0·4° C) during the latter half of winter (March to April). Measurements of the rate of energy depletion (equivalent to the routine metabolic rate) revealed that juvenile walleye pollock consumed 37% less energy at 0·5° C than at 2·0° C, suggesting an energetic benefit of residence in cold water (<1·0° C) over the shelf during winter. Prior to the starvation experiments, temperatures and ration level in the holding tanks were adjusted to create two different body condition groups of fish. Under the thermal condition of the latter half of winter (0·5° C), fish with a mean condition factor of 0·6 and 0·5 suffered 19·1 and 74·5% mortality, respectively, at the end of the experiments (after 56 days). The residual analysis of total body energy demonstrated that the cause of mortality was mainly associated with the depletion of energy reserves. When a logistic regression model for mortality derived from the experiments was applied to wild fish collected in March, the estimated overwintering mortality in 2004 and 2005 was 25·4 and <2·3%, respectively, assuming no feeding during the winter. Considering that juvenile walleye pollock feed during winter as shown in previous studies, intense overwintering mortality induced by energy depletion is improbable during the latter half of winter in the Doto area.