The cell-associated mucilage and soluble extracellular polysaccharides (EPS) were investigated in a eutrophic freshwater lake (Rostherne Mere, Cheshire, U.K.) over up to 2 year annual cycles. Five particular lake algae (Anabaena spiroides Klebahn, Anabaena flos-aquae Brébisson ex Bornet & Flahault,Anabaena circinalis Rabenhorst, Microcystis aeruginosa Kützing emend. Elenkin and Eudorina elegans Ehrenberg) were found to be the major contributors to cell-associated mucilage, particularly M. aeruginosa. Calculation of the total amount of cell-associated mucilage in the phytoplankton samples showed that it occupied 0.0001–0.007% (the latter during a bloom of Microcystis) of lake water volume within the epilimnion. Seasonal changes in the total volume of associated mucilage reflected the succession of mucilage-producing algal species in Rostherne Mere, which was closely correlated with the physico-chemical (temperature, oxygen, pH, nutrients) and biological (Secchi depth, phytoplankton) parameters within the lake. High levels of cell-associated mucilage present in the lake may have potential for binding metals or other ions in the aquatic environment. Colourimetric determination of the concentration of soluble EPS revealed concentrations of between 2.5 and 60 mg l−1, with peak levels during the bacillariophyceaen bloom and late clear water phase. The second phase did not appear to relate directly to changes in algal population, and may result from bacterial activity, algal lysis or zooplankton activity. As soluble EPS forms a major component of the total amount of dissolved carbon in lakes, the study of the soluble EPS is important to understand the carbon cycle in freshwaters. No direct correlation occurred between algal-associated mucilage and soluble EPS over a single annual cycle.