Globally, the number of recreational fishers is sizeable and increasing in many countries. Associated with this trend is the potential for negative impacts on fish stocks through exploitation or management measures such as stocking and introduction of non-native fishes. Nevertheless, recreational fishers can be instrumental in successful fisheries conservation through active involvement in, or initiation of, conservation projects to reduce both direct and external stressors contributing to fishery declines. Understanding fishers' concerns for sustained access to the resource and developing methods for their meaningful participation can have positive impacts on conservation efforts. We examined a suite of case studies that demonstrate successful involvement of recreational fishers in conservation and management activities that span developed and developing countries, temperate and tropical regions, marine and freshwater systems, and open- and closed-access fisheries. To illustrate potential benefits and challenges of involving recreational fishers in fisheries management and conservation, we examined the socioeconomic and ecological contexts of each case study. We devised a conceptual framework for the engagement of recreational fishers that targets particular types of involvement (enforcement, advocacy, conservation, management design [type and location], research, and monitoring) on the basis of degree of stakeholder stewardship, scale of the fishery, and source of impacts (internal or external). These activities can be enhanced by incorporating local knowledge and traditions, taking advantage of leadership and regional networks, and creating collaborations among various stakeholder groups, scientists, and agencies to maximize the probability of recreational fisher involvement and project success.