The ability to predict hypolimnetic dissolved oxygen concentrations in lakes and to track changes in concentrations over time in response to known environmental stressors is critical for effective lake management. The background concentrations of deepwater oxygen, in particular, provide important management benchmarks for assessing the impact of current and future shoreline residential development on water quality. Background can be defined as the conditions that exist in the absence of, or prior to, human influence. We compare 2 models commonly used to predict end-of-summer, volume-weighted hypolimnetic oxygen (VWHO) concentrations in Canadian Shield lakes. The paleoecological and empirical models are evaluated in their ability to predict present-day VWHO concentrations, and then compared in their predictions of background VWHO concentrations and in predictions of changes in VWHO from background to present-day conditions. The predictive power of the 59-lake paleoecological model (jackknifed r2 = 0.51, RMSEP = 2.18 mg/L) is comparable to other models that have used chironomids to predict the degree of hypolimnetic anoxia in lakes but is lower than that produced by the empirical modelling approach (r2 = 0.87, SE = 1.04 mg/L). However, this discrepancy may be offset by the enhanced realism of the paleoecological model, including its ability to predict declines in VWHO over time. The combined use of the paleoecological and empirical modelling approaches may allow lake managers to examine changes in deepwater oxygen concentrations in response to a single targeted stressor (e.g., residential shoreline development) and to multiple environmental stressors (e.g., climate change, hydrological management). © 2009 Copyright by the North American Lake Management Society.