Abstract This paper provides an overview of the modelling process using generalized linear models (GLMs), generalized additive models (GAMs) and generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs), especially as they are applied within fisheries research. We describe the essential aspect of model interpretation and construction so as to achieve its correct application. We start with the simplest models and show the progression from GLMs to either GAMs or GLMMs. Although this is not a comprehensive review, we emphasise topics relevant to fisheries science such as transformation options, link functions, adding model flexibility through splines, and using random and fixed effects. We finish by discussing the various aspects of these models and their variants, and provide a view on their relative benefits to fisheries research.