Lakes and ponds harbour a high number of diverse planktonic microorganisms that are centrally involved in biochemical cycles and aquatic food webs. Although the open water body (pelagial) seems to be a uniform and unstructured environment, ecological niche separation of coexisting microbial taxa might be triggered by limiting resources (bottom-up control) and mortality factors (top-down control), leading to distinct spatial and temporal distribution patterns of different microbes. This review gives an overview of the most abundant prokaryotic populations by grouping them in specific ecological guilds based on their life strategies. Defense specialists such as very small actinobacteria or big filamentous bacteria mostly occur at times of highest grazing pressure by heterotrophic nanoflagellates, the main consumers of bacteria. Oligotrophic ultramicrobacteria, on the other hand, seem to be mostly adapted to nutrient depleted water layers during summer stratification, while opportunistic bacteria profit from material released during short-living algal blooms. Seasonal changes in abiotic and biotic factors may be the main causes for periodic reoccurring density maxima of different prokaryotes populations in the pelagial of temperate lakes, reflected in a distinct seasonality of the freshwater bacterioplankton.