Engaging ocean users, including fishing fleets, in oceanographic and ecological research is a valuable method for collecting high-quality data, improving cost efficiency, and increasing societal appreciation for scientific research. As research partners, fishing fleets provide broad access to and knowledge of the ocean, and fishers are highly motivated to use the data collected to better understand the ecosystems in which they harvest. Here, we discuss recent trends in collaborative research that have increased the capacity of and access to scientific data collection. We also describe common elements of successful collaborative research programs, including definition of a scientific problem and goals, choice of technology, data collection and sampling design, data management and dissemination, and data analysis and communication. Finally, we review four case studies that demonstrate the general principles of effective collaborative research as well as the utility of citizen-collected data for academic research and fisheries management. We also discuss the challenge of funding, particularly as it relates to maintaining collaborative research programs in the long term. We conclude with a discussion of likely future trends. Ultimately, we predict that collaborative research will continue to grow in importance as climate change increasingly impacts ocean ecosystems, commercial fisheries, and the global food supply.