The outcome of sperm competition in species with alternative male reproductive strategies may be determined by fair or loaded raffle mechanisms. The sperm production and quality of male Atlantic salmon using alternative reproductive tactics were investigated in order to determine the relative importance of sperm quality for male reproductive success. Sexually mature resident parr males produced greater numbers of spermatozoa per millilitre of ejaculate and invested more in their gonads as a percentage of body mass than their anadromous counterparts. Parr males had greater proportions of motile spermatozoa and a greater sperm ATP content as compared with anadromous males. Parr males invested relatively more in sperm quality and sperm numbers after the effect of body size was accounted for. In fertilization experiments, parr males fertilized greater proportions of eggs than anadromous males. A polynomial model exhibited a trade-off between testes mass and ejaculate expenditure and explained 60% of the variation. These results establish that, in sperm competition with dominant males, parr males may compensate for behavioural subordinance by producing physiologically superior spermatozoa.