Are recreational fisheries resilient to harvest or prone to collapse? This paper reviews research published since that question was posed by Post et al. (2002, Fisheries 27, 6–17). A number of patterns and processes have been identified that suggest understanding the risk of collapse requires knowledge of the fishing effort response, degree of depensation in the fishery and the life history of the harvested species. Processes involving the behaviour of fish, behaviour of anglers and management responses to declining quality can all impact the degree of resilience of recreational fisheries and their risk of collapse. The spatial context of an individual fishery can be important as they are often embedded in lake districts and joined by mobile anglers so their local dynamics are not independent from other fisheries. Typical regulations that restrict the behaviour of individual anglers in open-access fisheries can provide some resilience but cannot prevent collapse if the fishing effort is too high. Many uncertainties remain related to the occurrence and intensity of the key processes and therefore adopting an adaptive experimental management approach might be the most useful approach to minimise the risk of collapse in recreational fisheries.