Our ability to model spatial distributions of fish populations is reviewed by describing the available modelling tools. Ultimate models of the individual's motivation for behavioural decisions are derived from evolutionary ecology. Mechanistic models for how fish sense and may respond to their surroundings are presented for vision, olfaction, hearing, the lateral line and other sensory organs. Models for learning and memory are presented, based both upon evolutionary optimization premises and upon neurological information processing and decision making. Functional tools for modelling behaviour and life histories can be categorized as belonging to an optimization or an adaptation approach. Among optimization tools, optimal foraging theory, life history theory, ideal free distribution, game theory and stochastic dynamic programming are presented. Among adaptation tools, genetic algorithms and the combination with artificial neural networks are described. The review advocates the combination of evolutionary and neurological approaches to modelling spatial dynamics of fish.