Seventeen strains of Saprolegnia spp. were examined for morphological and physiological characteristics, and seven were examined for their pathogenicity to Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L. Two of the Saprolegnia strains tested caused 89 and 31% cumulative mortality in challenged salmonids and were significantly more pathogenic than the other strains tested. The positive control (Saprolegnia parasitica ATCC 90213) caused 18% mortality, but this was not significantly higher than non-pathogenic strains (0–3% cumulative mortality). All the pathogenic Saprolegnia strains and two non-pathogenic strains had secondary cysts with long, hooked hairs, a characteristic which is claimed to be typical of S. parasitica. This characteristic is apparently necessary, but does not in itself determine the ability to cause mortality in Atlantic salmon. However, all the pathogenic Saprolegnia strains in the present study showed a significantly higher initial growth rate of cysts in sterilized tap water than did non-pathogenic strains. The results of the present study suggest that initial growth rate of germinating cysts in pure water, together with the presence of long hooked hairs on the secondary cysts, may be indicators of pathogenicity of Saprolegnia strains to Atlantic salmon.