Optimal life-history models generally predict that the reproductive effort of iteroparous organisms may increase with age, as their expectation of future reproduction decreases. The population of three–spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in the Camargue (Rhone River Delta, France) is annual, all adults dying after their first breeding season. As the three–spined stickleback is a multiple spawner, we tested the hypothesis that reproductive effort may increase during the breeding season on field data. From 1987 to 1998, 653 female sticklebacks were collected in the field during the breeding seasons. The body size, body weight and weights of the liver, gonads and carcass were measured for these individuals. Only gravid females with mature eggs (176 fish) were included in the analysis. Considering the female three–spined stickleback as a capital breeder, the energetic resources available for allocation between soma and gonads were estimated by its body weight. Somatic condition decreased during the breeding season and reproductive effort (gonad weight relative to body weight) increased. These patterns did not vary significantly between years. These observed variations in reproductive effort during the breeding season can be interpreted as empirical evidence of a trade–off between reproductive effort and expectation of future reproduction.