Despite being a major selective force, predation can induce puzzling variability in anti-predator responses—from lack of predator aversion to lifelong predator-induced fear. This variability is hypothesised to result from variation in the trade-offs associated with avoiding predators. But critical information on fitness outcomes of these trade-offs associated with anti-predator behaviours is lacking. We tested this trade-off hypothesis in Aedes aegypti, by examining oviposition site selection decisions in response towards larval predation risk and comprehensively measuring the fitness implications of trade-offs of avoiding larval predators, using three fitness measures: larval survival, development time and size. In a field study, we find that adult females show a surprisingly variable response to predators, ranging from attraction to avoidance. This variation is explained by fitness outcomes of oviposition along a predation-risk gradient that we measured in the laboratory. We show that ovipositing females could gain fitness benefits from ovipositing in pools with a low density of predators, rather than in predator-free pools, as predators provide a release from negative density effects of conspecific larvae that might co-occur in a pool. Interacting selection pressures may thus explain diverse prey responses. We suggest other systems in which similarly unexpected prey behaviour is likely to occur.