Red Roman

Discover red roman, a tenacious invertebrate-eater with a striking appearance, primarily found along the southwestern coasts of Africa.
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Where and When?

Red roman have a fairly limited distribution that stretches from northern Namibia south, around the African coast, to the Eastern Cape in South Africa with some outliers reaching southern KwaZulu Natal province. This species usually stays near the seabed in depths that range down to 100 m. (330 ft.). Red roman prefer to live above rocky substrates or reefs and are mostly found fairly close to the shore. The males, which are generally the larger individuals, are highly territorial and “defend” their areas from other males. Females move around much more but are usually solitary and they rarely form shoals. Red roman are a “cold water” species and are active right through winter as well as summer and so may be caught or targeted at any time. Despite this, they seem to be daytime feeders and probably rest on the bottom or in caves after dark.

About Red Roman

The red roman (Chrysoblephus laticeps) is a robust, substantial fish with a snapper-like shape. It is a very popular angling species where it occurs. True to the name, red roman is generally orangey or red, but has a marked and characteristic white saddle on its back behind which is a further white stripe. It also has a thin, metallic blue line between its eyes. This species has a fairly large mouth at the front and bottom of its head and this is armed with fearsome canine teeth backed up by strong “crunching” molars. Red roman are a slow-growing species and can attain a length of 50 cm. (20 in.) and a mass of 4.2 kg. (9.3 lbs.). They mature, at about 22 cm (9 in.), into active spawning females and then many transform into territorial males as they grow larger. They are benthic (bottom-loving) feeders and eat mostly invertebrates, particularly crustaceans, worms and molluscs, but also occasionally take small fish. During spawning a male and female fish will undergo elaborate “rituals” before releasing eggs and milt into the open ocean.

How to Catch?

Most recreational fishing for red romans is undertaken from the shore or small boats fishing fairly close inshore. They are rarely caught on the fly or by spinning as, in spite of being aggressive and voracious feeders, they also have a reputation for being “sluggish”. Most red romans are caught by bait fishing on, or near, the bottom and, as invertebrates are their prime food, baits such as prawns, crabs and squid are generally the most productive. They are occasionally caught by anglers using fish bait, or plastics “jerked” near the bottom, but invertebrate bait is usually the best bet. Red roman do not grow particularly large but, with sharp teeth and their habit of living near reefs or rocks, a fairly strong leader is a must to avoid being cut off. Spearfishing for red roman is popular, as the species tends to hang around their area but, due to it growing slowly and living close inshore, numbers can become locally depressed. Low bag limits have been put in place to protect this species because red roman remain a highly prized and popular species renowned for giving a strong, long, fight.