Abstract While hypoxia is generally associated with negative connotations, some animals may also take advantage of reduced oxygen concentrations. However, the dynamics of such processes for zooplankton are poorly understood. We made continuous acoustic studies of Calanus helgolandicus overwintering in hypoxic waters (Oslofjorden, Norway). Their apparent minimum oxygen tolerance was 0.2–0.3 mL O2 L−1 at 8°C. The copepods adjusted their vertical distribution in concert with the upward progression of hypoxia as oxygen contents declined in the course of winter. The hypoxic overwintering habitat largely excluded potential predators and mortality appeared low in early winter. As the copepod distribution shallowed in phase with declining oxygen contents at depth, mortality increased. In contrast to recent predictions, C. helgolandicus had sufficient energy reserves to sustain long-term overwintering. Termination of the overwintering phase in spring was gradual but appeared to accelerate during the development of the spring bloom. Enhanced oceanic deoxygenation with climate change may affect seasonally migrating copepods in unpredictable ways.