Habitat use can be complex, as tradeoffs among physiology, resource abundance, and predator avoidance affect the suitability of different environments for different species. Green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), an imperiled species along the west coast of North America, undertake extensive coastal migrations and occupy estuaries during the summer and early fall. Warm water and abundant prey in estuaries may afford a growth opportunity. We applied a bioenergetics model to investigate how variation in estuarine temperature, spawning frequency, and duration of estuarine residence affect consumption and growth potential for individual green sturgeon. We assumed that green sturgeon achieve observed annual growth by feeding solely in conditions represented by Willapa Bay, Washington, an estuary annually frequented by green sturgeon and containing extensive tidal flats that harbor a major prey source (burrowing shrimp, Neotrypaea californiensis). Modeled consumption rates increased little with reproductive investment (<0.4%), but responded strongly (10–50%) to water temperature and duration of residence, as higher temperatures and longer residence required greater consumption to achieve equivalent growth. Accordingly, although green sturgeon occupy Willapa Bay from May through September, acoustically-tagged individuals are observed over much shorter durations (34 d + 41 d SD, N = 89). Simulations of <34 d estuarine residence required unrealistically high consumption rates to achieve observed growth, whereas longer durations required sustained feeding, and therefore higher total intake, to compensate for prolonged exposure to warm temperatures. Model results provide a range of per capita consumption rates by green sturgeon feeding in estuaries to inform management decisions regarding resource and habitat protection for this protected species.