Abstract Sampling was conducted on the west Florida continental shelf ecosystem modeling site to estimate zooplankton grazing impact on primary production. Samples were collected with the high-resolution sampler, a towed array bearing electronic and optical sensors operating in tandem with a paired net/bottle verification system. A close biological–physical coupling was observed, with three main plankton communities: 1. a high-density inshore community dominated by larvaceans coincident with a salinity gradient; 2. a low-density offshore community dominated by small calanoid copepods coincident with the warm mixed layer; and 3. a high-density offshore community dominated by small poecilostomatoid and cyclopoid copepods and ostracods coincident with cooler, sub-pycnocline oceanic water. Both high-density communities were associated with relatively turbid water. Applying available grazing rates from the literature to our abundance data, grazing pressure mirrored the above bio-physical pattern, with the offshore sub-pycnocline community contributing ∼65% of grazing pressure despite representing only 19% of the total volume of the transect. This suggests that grazing pressure is highly localized, emphasizing the importance of high-resolution sampling to better understand plankton dynamics. A comparison of our grazing rate estimates with primary production estimates suggests that mesozooplankton do not control the fate of phytoplankton over much of the area studied (<5% grazing of daily primary production), but “hot spots” (∼25–50% grazing) do occur which may have an effect on floral composition.