Mark–recapture experiments have the potential to provide direct estimates of fundamental parameters required for fishery stock assessment and provision of subsequent management advice in fisheries. The literature on mark–recapture experiments is enormous, with a variety of different experimental designs and estimation models; thus, it can be difficult to grasp the primary features of different approaches, the inter-relationship among them and their potential utility in different situations. Here, we present an overview of the tagging experimental designs that are appropriate for use in commercial fishery situations. We suggest that most mark–recapture experiments in a large-scale fishery context can be classified into one of three basic types – Petersen, tag-attrition or Brownie – based on the fundamental design employed for releases and recaptures. The release and recapture strategy (e.g. the number of release events, whether the size of the sample examined for recaptured tags is known) determines which parameters can be estimated and from where the information for estimating them arises. We conclude that an integrated Brownie and Petersen approach is the most powerful of the different approaches in terms of the range of parameters that can be estimated without underlying assumptions or constraints on parameters. Such an approach can provide direct estimates of fishing mortality, natural mortality and population size, which are the main population dynamics parameters that traditional fishery stock assessments attempt to estimate.