The global recreational fishing sector is the dominant fishing sector in freshwaters of the highly developed world and often more economically powerful than commercial fisheries, yet it is also ignored in international policy and suffers widespread data deficiencies from a lack of research. Despite the magnitude of potential benefits and consequences, little is known about recreational fishing activity, particularly in developing countries. I propose using an integrated rapid assessment protocol that adopts a social-ecological systems (SES) approach to address data deficiencies in catch and release (C&R) recreational fisheries of the developing world. In this work, I use the mahseer C&R recreational fishery of the Cauvery River, India as a case study. This dissertation identifies which linkages in the SES are most likely to influence sustainable management of the mahseer recreational fishery. To identify the nature and scope of the knowledge gaps in recreational fisheries of the developing world, I conducted a survey of fisheries professionals to rank knowledge and management needs. The results of the survey confirmed that recreational fisheries are subject to severe data deficiencies that require local level assessment to resolve. I then worked with local stakeholders to prioritize a research agenda that identified the need to research physiological responses of mahseer to C&R and angler behaviours and perspectives as valuable to this fishery. Therefore, I examined the physiological responses of mahseer to C&R, measured mahseer post-release movements, and compared the responses of mahseer caught multiple times through simulated capture processes. Finally, I conducted angler surveys to identify angler behaviours, perspectives, and information sources, then used expert interviews to place this information in local context. Overall, results show that mahseer are robust to C&R, but larger mahseer are likely to experience negative consequences post-release, and effects of combined stressors may be cumulatively interacting. There are opportunities to improve relationships among management organizations, angling groups and local communities to improve information flow and benefit-sharing throughout the mahseer fishery. The integrated rapid assessment protocol provides essential baseline data on biological and social responses to recreational fishing activity, and acts as a road map to guide future research and management efforts.