Stocking, transfer and introduction of fish are commonly used to mitigate loss of stocks, enhance recreational or commercial catches, restore fisheries, or to create new fisheries. However, many stocking programmes are carried out without definition of objectives or evaluation of the potential or actual success of the exercise. The present paper describes a strategic approach to stocking aimed at maximizing the potential benefits. A protocol is discussed which reviews factors such as the source of the fish, the stocking density, the age and the size of fish at stocking, the timing of stocking, and the mechanism of stocking. Finally, the effects of social, cultural and economic constraints on the potential outcome of stock enhancement programmes are discussed.