Temporal changes in the in situ germination flux of cysts and the abundance of vegetative cells of the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella were investigated in Ago Bay, central Japan from July 2003 to December 2004. The in situ germination flux (cells m-2 day-1) was measured using 'plankton emergence trap/chambers (PET chambers)'. Germination of the cysts in the sediments occurred continuously during the study, ranging from 52 to 1753 cells m-2 day-1, with no temporal trend. This germination pattern appeared to be promoted by a short mandatory dormancy period for newly formed cysts coupled with a broad temperature window for germination. For the vegetative populations, high abundances (>105 cells m-2) were recorded in the water column from spring to summer and from autumn to early winter. The size of the vegetative populations did not correlate with the cyst germination flux but rather larger vegetative populations were often observed when the water temperature was around 20°C, indicating that bloom development was mainly regulated by the temperature. Nonetheless, the continuous germination pattern of A. catenella is advantageous enabling the germinated cells to immediately exploit favorable bloom conditions.