Striped Fishing Spider: Essential Facts for Enthusiasts

The striped fishing spider, scientifically known as Dolomedes scriptus, is a fascinating creature you might encounter in your outdoor adventures. These spiders are semi-aquatic and are usually found on or near water, making them unique among their kind. They don’t build webs and come in various shades of brown, tan, or grayish colors, often sporting a distinctive white or tan stripe that runs along their bodies source.

As part of the Dolomedes genus, the striped fishing spider is one of eight species found in North America, north of Mexico. These spiders are impressive predators in their own right, with some hunting abilities that set them apart from other spider species. One remarkable feature is their ability to walk on water and catch aquatic prey, turning the surface tension of water into an advantage.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the striped fishing spider. From their habitat and hunting behavior to their physical characteristics and distribution, we’ll cover the essential aspects of these intriguing arachnids. So, let’s dive in and discover the fascinating world of the striped fishing spider!

Physical Description

Size and Coloration

The striped fishing spider is an interesting creature with unique features. They come in different shades of brown, tan, or grayish colors. Some individuals even have a bold white stripe running down their bodies, making them quite noticeable. The markings on their abdomen and cephalothorax can vary, but they’re usually consistent with their overall coloration.

For example, the dark fishing spider has a mottled black and brown appearance, with few white markings. Additionally, they have dark W-shaped marks on their abdomen.

Anatomy Details

When it comes to their anatomy, the striped fishing spider has a few unique features:

  • Legs: Their legs are often held almost straight out, similar to those of other fishing spiders, such as the dark fishing spider. This allows them to sense and capture prey both on and in the water.
  • Carapace: The carapace, or the hard, protective covering of their cephalothorax, serves as their external skeleton, providing structural support.

Keep in mind that the striped fishing spider is part of the genus Dolomedes, which consists of eight species in North America north of Mexico. Each species may have slight variations in their anatomy, but they all share the basic characteristics mentioned above.

In summary, the striped fishing spider is an intriguing spider species with a range of colors and markings. They have unique features that allow them to thrive near water and catch their prey effectively.

Habitat and Distribution

Native Regions

The striped fishing spider (Dolomedes vittatus) is one of the eight species in the genus Dolomedes, and belongs to the family Pisauridae in the order Araneae. These spiders are native to North America, primarily found in the United States and Canada. Their distribution covers a wide range, encompassing parts of Missouri, as well as other regions in North America.

Preferred Environment

Striped fishing spiders are semiaquatic creatures that are usually found near water bodies, such as wetlands, streams, and fast-flowing streams. They have a distinct preference for areas that provide ample access to their prey, mainly fish and insects.

In their habitat, you’ll often see these spiders waiting on the shore or on floating leaves with their front pairs of legs extended onto the water. Their incredible ability to sense the ripples caused by insects and fish allows them to catch their prey effectively.

Remember that fishing spiders don’t build webs like other arachnids. Instead, they rely on their excellent hunting skills to survive in their preferred environment.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Diet

Striped fishing spiders, belonging to the genus Dolomedes, have a diverse diet. They primarily feed on aquatic insects and invertebrates, like snails and shrimp. They can also catch and eat small fish, earthworms, slugs, and even frogs. These spiders are skillful hunters and do not rely on a web to catch their prey.

Some common prey items include:

  • Aquatic insects
  • Snails
  • Shrimp
  • Earthworms
  • Slugs
  • Small fish
  • Frogs

Predation and Defense

Striped fishing spiders are not safe from predators. On top of the food chain, birds and spider wasps are common predators that hunt them. To protect themselves, striped fishing spiders use their venomous chelicerae for defense.

These spiders are often confused with the venomous hobo spider; however, striped fishing spiders are not as dangerous to humans. Their venom poses little threat to us but is highly effective in subduing their prey.

Reproduction

Reproduction in striped fishing spiders occurs during spring. Female spiders lay large clusters of eggs and protect them carefully by wrapping them in silk. They carry their egg sacs with them, ensuring their safety. Once the eggs hatch, the spiderlings emerge and immediately begin their own lives.

Keep in mind:

  • Egg-laying occurs in spring
  • Females wrap their eggs in silk
  • Spiderlings hatch and venture on their own

In summary, the striped fishing spider is a fascinating creature with interesting behaviors and lifestyle elements. Its diverse diet and hunting skills make it a skilled predator of aquatic insects and invertebrates, while its unique reproductive process ensures the survival and success of the next generation.

Comparison with Other Spiders

vs. Wolf Spiders

Striped fishing spiders and wolf spiders share some similarities, such as their size and shape. However, there are notable differences between these species too. For instance:

  • Striped fishing spiders are generally semiaquatic and often found near water, while wolf spiders are typically terrestrial.
  • Fishing spiders have been known to catch small fish and aquatic insects, whereas wolf spiders hunt on land.
  • Wolf spiders have better eyesight and actively crawl about to hunt their prey.

vs. Dark Fishing Spider

The dark fishing spider is another member of the Dolomedes genus. It is often mistaken for the striped fishing spider due to their similar appearance and habitats. However, here are some differences between the two:

  • Dark fishing spiders have a unique pattern on their abdomen, while striped fishing spiders typically have a bold white or tan stripe running down the body.
  • Both species can be found near water, but dark fishing spiders are more commonly found in wooded areas, whereas striped fishing spiders are more often found on floating leaves and shores.

vs. Nursery Web Spiders

Nursery web spiders belong to the same family as striped fishing spiders and share a few common traits, such as the ability to walk on water and capture prey. However, some important differences include:

  • Nursery web spiders create protective webs for their eggs and young, whereas striped fishing spiders do not build webs at all.
  • While both spiders are often found near water, nursery web spiders are more commonly associated with vegetation, while striped fishing spiders are more associated with shorelines and floating leaves.
Spider Feature Striped Fishing Spider Wolf Spider Dark Fishing Spider Nursery Web Spider
Habitat Near water Terrestrial Wooded areas Near vegetation
Web No No No Yes (for young)
Eyesight Moderate Good Moderate Moderate
Ability to walk on water Yes No Yes Yes
Distinctive appearance Bold white or tan stripe N/A Unique pattern N/A

In summary, striped fishing spiders exhibit varying characteristics when compared to wolf spiders, dark fishing spiders, and nursery web spiders. Understanding these distinctions can help you better identify and appreciate the unique traits of each species.

Conservation Status

The striped fishing spider is a fascinating creature that lives near and on water. Its conservation status isn’t a major concern at the moment, as it’s adapted to various habitats and can be found in many locations. However, maintaining a healthy ecosystem is essential for this species as well as others. Here’s what you can do to help:

  • Be mindful of water quality: Since the striped fishing spider thrives in aquatic environments, keeping our water sources clean benefits their habitat. Avoid polluting rivers and lakes by reducing the use of harmful chemicals.

  • Preserve natural habitats: Fishing spiders rely on diverse vegetation near water bodies for shelter and hunting. Encourage the conservation of shorelines, forests, and wetlands to ensure these spiders have the resources they need.

Just by being aware of the striped fishing spider’s existence and habitat needs, you’re contributing to their conservation. Remember, every little step counts, and the more you learn, the more you can help. To learn more about this fascinating creature, check out the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Other Interesting Facts

Unique Abilities

Striped fishing spiders are fascinating creatures with surprising abilities. For instance, they are adept at capturing small aquatic animals. These spiders can sense ripples in the water caused by insects like water striders and dragonflies. They usually sit on the shore or on floating leaves with their front legs extended onto the water and react swiftly to catch their prey.

These spiders are also skilled in maternal care. Female spiders protect their egg sacs diligently and carry them around until the spiderlings hatch. The hatchlings then spend some time with their mother before venturing out independently.

Interaction with Humans

While striped fishing spiders are venomous, their venom is not usually harmful to humans. These spiders prefer to avoid humans and their habitats. Encounters between them and us are quite rare.

A key point to remember is that striped fishing spiders are not aggressive towards humans. In the unlikely event you get bitten, the effect will be similar to a mild bee sting. It is always best, however, to consult a medical professional if bitten to rule out potential complications.

Now that you have gained useful insights into the intriguing world of striped fishing spiders, remember to approach them with caution and respect their natural habitats.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

 

Large 4-inch spider under deck in MD
Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 5:10 PM
Found her under the deck last night in central MD; body about 1-inch; almost 4-inch leg span. Lovely leg striations. Seemed shy. No web. Not hairy like a wolf spider and legs too long and skinny. What is she? Habitat? Have never seen one before. Would prefer she lives outside!!! Released her in our back woods with creek. Fisherman spider?
goodbug
ellicott city, MD

Fishing Spider carrying Egg Sac
Fishing Spider carrying Egg Sac

Dear goodbug,
What a spectacular photo you have provided for us of a female Dolomedes Fishing Spider, probably Dolomedes tenebrosus, carrying her Egg Sac.

Letter 2 – Fishing Spider Identified

 

awesome web site
Greetings
I happened to stumble across your website in search for some info needed to identify a very large (well for me!) spider. I only wish I had my camera since he was over 4 inches including legs. I identified my spider as a fishing spider in less than 30 minutes. It is one of the best databases I have seen! I cannot say I will enjoy it, since I have an abnormal fear of ANYTHING creepy crawly, but it is certainly fascinating and wonderful!!! Excellent work……….
Regards,
a non bug lover
E Cossean

Letter 3 – Fishing Spider with egg sac

 

Suspected fishing spider with egg sac
I found this on the exterior of an old shack next to a 3 acre pond in rural west-central Georgia. (About 30 miles north of Columbus, GA) The date was 30-Jul-06. I am guessing that it is a fishing spider. I notice that her left third leg is missing, and that she is carrying an egg sac. She sure was big! Both mother and offspring were left doing fine. I haven’t been back since to see if there was a successful hatch. The first one was taken with F/3.6 at 1/50th sec., and the second F4.0 at 1/60th sec. Both were hand held. ISO was 80 (simulated–digital camera). I have reduced the photo size to decrease your bandwidth. (The full size photos are over 3 Mb each!) If you wish to put these photos on your website, you have my permission, just please make sure the copyright notice is included. Thank you for your time and attention.
Richard Snouffer, MD
Anniston, AL

Hi Richard,
Thanks so much for sending your photos of a female Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes with her egg sac. Losing a leg does not seem to negatively impact a spider’s ability to move around.

Letter 4 – Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

 

Spider from Connecticut
I know you are busy this time of year, but I found this spider (the second one in three days) in my year in Northwest Connecticut. A couple of things, could you tell me what kind it is and what is the thing underneath it. Was it feeding or is it something else? Thanks for your help. Attached find a macro photo of one of the spiders.
Jim Shannon
Winsted, CT
USA

Hi Jim,
This is a female Dolomedes Fishing Spider and she is carrying about her Egg Sac in order to protect it from harm. These large frightening spiders are quite harmless, and in addition to their maternal instincts, they are fascinating creatures.

Letter 5 – Fishing Spider with Crawling Prey

 

Another fishing spider?
Hi, I found this guy on my garage wall behind some plywood this morning. I was very shocked because of his size (approx3" across). I found your site and am pretty sure this is a fishing spider. I thought you might like to have this photo I took of him eating a beetle. It turned out quite well and you can get a feel for the size of the spider. The plywood in the bottom of the photo is 1" thick.
Mike

Hi Mike,
We have been getting numerour requests for the identification of Dolomedes Fishing Spiders in the last several weeks. Though called Fishing Spiders, many specimens are found far from water and only catch crawing and flying prey.

Letter 6 – Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

 

Huge female spider with egg sac
Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 6:40 PM
Hello – We were pulling up rocks from around my garden pond to replace the liner and came across this big spider, with a baby sac. Do you know what kind it is? If you like the picture, feel free to post it. Just let me know if you do. I named her Mary Beth, the Jurassic Pregnant Pond Spider. We relocated here to a different part of the yard.
Cathy
Miamisburg, Ohio

Female Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Female Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

Hi Cathy,
This is a female Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes, probably the Northern Dolomedes, Dolomedes tenebrosus.  They are generally associated with bodies of water, which makes her habitat around your pond significant.

Letter 7 – Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

 

Subject: Fishing or Wolf Spider with Egg Sac
Location: Sullivan County, NY
July 3, 2013 5:19 pm
I almost grabbed this girl while I was sorting laundry. Thankfully her big white egg sac stood out against the black running shorts and I stopped short. I scooped her up in a mason jar and took her outside.
Friends have alternately identified her as a fishing spider and a wolf spider. Which is she?
Also, I noticed two of these spiders on the side of my cabin (outside, thankfully!) about two weeks prior to this. Then they were no longer on the house, but I found one in my tub and now her. Do you think they are the same two?
Thanks for any help you can provide!
Signature: Kambri Crews

Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

Dear Kambri,
Both Fishing Spiders and Wolf Spider exhibit excellent maternal care beginning with the Egg Sac which is transported around with the mother.  Both families also care for the young for a short while.  Wolf Spiders transport the Egg Sac by dragging it behind them.  The Egg Sac is attached to the spinnerets.  Female Fishing Spiders carry the Egg Sac in the chelicerae or mouthparts.  Your spider is a Fishing Spider.  We do not know how dense the population of Fishing Spider is in your area so we cannot guess if you saw the same two spiders or different individuals.  While the filters utilized to create artistic instagrams often distort details that would be helpful for identification purposes, we must admit that this effective instagram shows the characteristic stance of a female Fishing Spider carrying about her egg sac.

Instagram of Fishing Spider
Instagram of Fishing Spider

Thanks so much! Love the site!
Kambri

Letter 8 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: SPIDER IDENTIFICATION
Location: Balsam Lake Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
July 3, 2014 9:44 am
Taken at Balsam Lake Provincial Park, Ontario…I dislike spiders but found this one intriguing, he/she was on my tent, didn’t like the light when shined on him…can you identify…pretty fast mover when placed on tree after removal from tent…camp site was not near water, lake was about a mile away…at least 2-2 1/2 inches in total diameter…he seemed to like hanging out on the mesh of my tent…thanks in advance, I have never seen such a large spider in Ontario…almost tarantula like in appearance, hairy, brownish/blackish…
Signature: Thanks for your help, Kim Savoie

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Hi Kim,
Even though you indicate that the lake was some distance away, this is nonetheless a Fishing Spider or Dock Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, and they are generally found in close proximity to water.

Letter 9 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: spider on the sand
Location: Northern lower peninsula – Michigan
August 10, 2014 8:39 pm
This guy or gal was spotted on the sand at a beach in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan today. An hour of digging around got me nowhere. But given its size (that’s a standard sized bic lighter) and what few markings I can make out, I want to go with a wolf or jumping spider of some sort but I’ve seen nothing that matches it or its camouflage ability. Can you ID this one?
Signature: Faith up North

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Dear Faith up North,
This is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, but even though we cropped to the spider and adjusted the contrast to provide more detail, we cannot be certain of the exact species.  Please refer to BugGuide for possibilities.  We do know that surroundings can have a pronounced effect upon which individuals in a particular species are able to survive and pass on genes, and it is very plausible that this light colored Fishing Spider may be uncharacteristically colored when one considers typical members of the species.  Because it is so well camouflaged, it as well as its ancestors and its progeny may be better suited to survival in this particular habitat.

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Thank you. I’m leaning toward D. scriptus.

 

Letter 10 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: Spider
Location: Pennsylvania
November 10, 2014 2:03 pm
Hi, I found this spider outside while I was stacking wood. It’s pretty big, about the size of a silver dollar or bigger. I was wondering what it was and if it was venomous.
Thanks!
Signature: -Marissa

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Dear Marissa,
You encountered a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes.  They have venom, but they are not considered dangerous to humans.  Fishing Spiders are generally found not far from water.

Letter 11 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: Fishing Spider?
Location: Shepherdstown, West Virginia
April 16, 2015 9:36 am
I found this gorgeous spider in an out building about a week ago (April 2015). At first I assumed it was some type of Wolf Spider, but further research has me now believing that it might be a Fishing Spider instead. It was rather large in size and was patient enough to allow me to get a few quick photos before it raced off to find cover. I’m also assuming it’s a female. I’m a huge bug fan and love your website! Thanks for what you do!
Signature: A Bug Geek

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Dear Bug Geek,
We love your images of a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes.  Many years ago, Daniel had a photography exhibit at the college in Shepherdstown.

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Letter 12 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: what is this spider?
Location: Stafford Virginia
July 18, 2015 3:05 pm
Can you tell me what this spider is?
Signature: Katyana

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Dear Katyana,
This is a harmless Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes.

Letter 13 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: Spider identification.
Location: Burriville, RI
January 10, 2016 5:34 pm
Dear Bugman,
I am curious if you can identify this particular spider. Usually the biggest spider we get around here are wolf spiders but this one is larger and has a different coloration. This was taken in the spring and I found it under my car while washing it. I was able to get close so that tells me it doesn’t scare easy.
Signature: John

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Dear John,
This is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, and we believe it is most likely Dolomedes tenebrosus which you can verify by comparing your individual to this BugGuide image.  Fishing Spiders are quite large and most species are found not far from fresh water.

Wow thank you very much! That makes a lot of sense, because I live pretty close to the town reservoir. I see now you’ve addressed this spider a few times before, my apologies my phone didn’t load the site properly at the time. Again thank you for your time.

There is no need to apologize.  We like being able to post new content to our site daily.  We also like having multiple examples of the same species as that helps in future identifications as well as acting as a species range indication.  Your posting did get 11 likes from our readers in just three days.

Letter 14 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: Big spider!
Location: Southeastern Virginia
June 1, 2016 6:25 pm
Found this creature in my kitchen in southeastern Virginia in May 2016. I captured him in a cup and set him free outside, away from the house. It is quite large, What type of spider is this?
Signature: Beaker

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Dear Beaker,
This is a harmless Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, and they are sometimes called Dock Spiders.  We are guessing you have a body of water near your home.  Because of your kindness, we are tagging your posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.

Letter 15 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: Nc spider
Location: Chapel hill nc
June 6, 2016 8:48 pm
Hello! My daughter was about to climb this tree and then spotted this beautifully camouflaged spider. We would love to know what it is. It was mid afternoon on a sunny day here in central North Carolina.
Thanks!
Signature: Adrienne

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Dear Adrienne,
This well camouflaged spider is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, and they are generally found not far from a body of water.  It appears the Fishing Spider may have captured prey, because the orange object in its mouth or chelicerae is not part of the spider.  Female Fishing Spiders carry the egg sac in their chelicerae, but that does not appear to be an egg sac.

What's In the Fishing Spider's Mouth???
What’s In the Fishing Spider’s Mouth???

Letter 16 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: What type of spider is this
Location: Upstate, NY
June 20, 2016 5:48 am
This was found near friends house in Binghamton, NY. Could you please tell me what type of spider it us and if it is poisonous? Could you tell me a little about the spider?
Signature: Marcus

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Dear Marcus,
This is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, and they are generally found not far from water.  They are also called Dock Spiders.  Fishing Spiders are not aggressive and they are not considered dangerous to humans.  Female Fishing Spiders exhibit strong maternal behavior.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

3 thoughts on “Striped Fishing Spider: Essential Facts for Enthusiasts”

  1. Found this spider on my front porch with what I think is an egg sac. Can you tell me if its a wolf spider or a fisher?
    Can’t see where to post the pic

    Reply
  2. Found this spider on my front porch with what I think is an egg sac. Can you tell me if its a wolf spider or a fisher?
    Can’t see where to post the pic

    Reply

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