Conventional fisheries management encourages highly selective fishing patterns for various purposes, such as increase relative yield, reduce unwanted by‐catch, protect various species or sizes and rebuild ecosystems. Recent empirical and theoretical studies, however, show increasing evidence that selective removals of targeted components have unintended adverse effects on stocks, fish communities and the ecosystem. Based on case studies from artisanal African freshwater fisher ies, and results from dynamic size‐based models, this chapter supports the renewed suggestion that an application of a more balanced fishing pattern will mitigate adverse effects and enhance food security better than increased selectivity. Contrary to common belief, small‐scale unregulated artisanal fisheries, with a high diversity of seasonally adapted fishing methods, are probably the closest empirical examples we have of an optimal exploitation pattern with the least disruptive effects on the structure of the ecosystem. As such, they are among the best examples of an ecosystem approach to fisheries that we have.