© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. In order to understand better the recruitment variability in European anchovy in the Bay of Biscay, it is important to investigate the processes that affect survival during the early life stages. Anchovy juvenile growth trajectories and hatch-date distributions were inferred over a 3-year period based on otolith microstructure analysis. Otolith growth trajectories showed a characteristic shape depending on their hatch-date timing. Earlier-born juveniles had notably broader maximum increments than later born conspecifics, resulting in higher growth rates. This observation suggests that early hatching would be beneficial for larval and juvenile growth, and, therefore, survival. The estimated juvenile hatch-date distributions were relatively narrow compared with the extended anchovy spawning season (March-August) in the Bay of Biscay and indicated that only individuals originated mainly from the summer months (June-August) survived until autumn. Hatch-date distributions were markedly different among years and seemed to influence the interannual recruitment strength of anchovy. We conclude that years characterized by juvenile survivors originating from the peak spawning period (May and June) would lead to considerable recruitment success. Downwelling events during the peak spawning period seem to affect larval survival.