Abstract The importance of physical parameters (temperature and salinity) and seston composition (chlorophyll a, protein, carbohydrate and lipid concentration as well as fatty acid composition) in controlling the in situ egg productions rate (EPR) of the calanoid copepod, Pseudodiaptomus hessei, was investigated monthly in a permanently open South African estuary over a one year period. The EPR of P. hessei ranged from 3.00 to 37.23 eggs F−1 d−1 and were amongst the highest rates published for egg-carrying copepods. EPR varied significantly between months while hatching success was constant and high throughout the study period (91% on average). A stepwise multiple linear regression selected temperature – Chl a 2–20 μm size fraction and temperature – 16:1(n-7) as the best descriptors of EPR (R2 = 0.86) and nauplii production (R2 = 0.92), respectively. The maximum values of EPR were recorded in September and December, following freshwater inflow into the estuary. September had an extremely high level of Chl a while December showed only an average level. We suggest that the EPR of P. hessei is also influenced by indirect effect of freshwater input into the estuary. The freshwater input modified the nutrient concentration and composition and as such altered the fatty acid seston composition which enhanced the EPR.