Protist community composition and seasonal dynamics are of major importance for the production of higher trophic levels, such as zooplankton and fish. Our aim was to reveal how the protist community in the Skagerrak changes through the seasons by combining high‐throughput sequencing and microscopy of plankton collected monthly over two years. The V4 region of the 18S rRNA gene was amplified by eukaryote universal primers from the total RNA/cDNA. We found a strong seasonal variation in protist composition and proportional abundances, and a difference between two depths within the euphotic zone. Highest protist richness was found in late summer‐early autumn, and lowest in winter. Temperature was the abiotic factor explaining most of the variation in diversity. Dinoflagellates was the most abundant and diverse group followed by ciliates and diatoms. We found about 70 new taxa recorded for the first time in the Skagerrak. The seasonal pattern in relative read abundance of major phytoplankton groups was well in accordance with microscopical biovolumes. This is the first metabarcoding study of the protist plankton community of all taxonomic groups and through seasons in the Skagerrak, which may serve as a baseline for future surveys to reveal effects of climate and environmental changes.