Because maturing oocytes and early embryos lack appreciable transcription, posttranscriptional regulatory processes control their development. To better understand this control, we profiled translational efficiencies and poly(A)-tail lengths throughout Drosophila oocyte maturation and early embryonic development. The correspondence between translational-efficiency changes and tail-length changes indicated that tail-length changes broadly regulate translation until gastrulation, when this coupling disappears. During egg activation, relative changes in poly(A)-tail length, and thus translational efficiency, were largely retained in the absence of cytoplasmic polyadenylation, which indicated that selective poly(A)-tail shortening primarily specifies these changes. Many translational changes depended on PAN GU and Smaug, and these changes were largely attributable to tail-length changes. Our results also revealed the presence of tail-length-independent mechanisms that maintained translation despite tail-length shortening during oocyte maturation, and prevented essentially all translation of bicoid and several other mRNAs before egg activation. In addition to these fundamental insights, our results provide valuable resources for future studies.