Abstract We investigated the role of gossypol isomers binding to blood plasma, seminal plasma and spermatozoa to elucidate gossypol anti-fertility action in the teleost fish, rainbow trout ( Oncorhynchus mykiss). Growth and hematological indicators of males were depressed when fish meal protein in diets was completely replaced with cottonseed meal. The cottonseed meal contained equal proportions of (−) (47.8±1.6%) and (+) gossypol isomers. Concentrations of spermatozoa were decreased with increasing proportions of gossypol in diets (from 0.22% to 0.95%); however, sperm motility and fertilizing ability were not affected. In contrast to mammals, steroid hormone concentrations were not suppressed in fish given diets with gradual increase of gossypol level. Gossypol concentrations were 100-fold higher in blood plasma than in seminal plasma, confirming a barrier in gossypol transfer between the general circulation and the testis. Spermatozoa accumulated predominantly (+) enantiomer (65–75%) with decreasing proportions as dietary gossypol concentrations increased. Spermatozoa bound most of the gossypol contained in the semen; however, this did not result in impairment of the sperm motility apparatus. Teleost fish sperm rely on ATP stores that accumulate during maturation as a source of energy during activation. In addition, the duration of sperm movement is short in these fish. As such, we hypothesize that the major action of gossypol on mammalian sperm, which is uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation, does not impair the energy supply required for flagellar beating in fish spermatozoa.