Considerable empirical evidence supports recovery of reef fish populations with fishery closures. In countries where full exclusion of people from fishing may be perceived as inequitable, fishing‐gear restrictions on nonselective and destructive gears may offer socially relevant management alternatives to build recovery of fish biomass. Even so, few researchers have statistically compared the responses of tropical reef fisheries to alternative management strategies. We tested for the effects of fishery closures and fishing gear restrictions on tropical reef fish biomass at the community and family level. We conducted 1,396 underwater surveys at 617 unique sites across a spatial hierarchy within 22 global marine ecoregions that represented 5 realms. We compared total biomass across local fish assemblages and among 20 families of reef fishes inside marine protected areas (MPAs) with different fishing restrictions: no‐take, hook‐and‐line fishing only, several fishing gears allowed, and sites open to all fishing gears. We included a further category representing remote sites, where fishing pressure is low. As expected, full fishery closures, (i.e., no‐take zones) most benefited community‐ and family‐level fish biomass in comparison with restrictions on fishing gears and openly fished sites. Although biomass responses to fishery closures were highly variable across families, some fishery targets (e.g., Carcharhinidae and Lutjanidae) responded positively to multiple restrictions on fishing gears (i.e., where gears other than hook and line were not permitted). Remoteness also positively affected the response of community‐level fish biomass and many fish families. Our findings provide strong support for the role of fishing restrictions in building recovery of fish biomass and indicate important interactions among fishing‐gear types that affect biomass of a diverse set of reef fish families.