Fishing spiders are fascinating creatures that can often be found near bodies of water. They belong to the genus Dolomedes, and their name comes from their unique ability to catch small fish and aquatic insects from the water as they walk on the surface. In order to understand where these spiders live, it’s essential to know about their habitat preferences and behavior.
Primarily, fishing spiders reside near ponds, swamps, or slow-moving streams. They’re typically seen in areas with abundant vegetation and water, where they can blend in with their surroundings to ambush their prey. The positioning of their habitat also allows them to escape predators, making it an ideal place for them to thrive.
Where Fishing Spiders Live
Fishing spiders are fascinating creatures with a unique habitat. They can be found in various parts of North America, including Canada, Florida, and Texas. Their preferred habitat is near water, as their name suggests.
You can often spot these spiders near wetlands, where they seek shelter in stones and loose bark. This provides them with excellent camouflage and access to their prey. Fishing spiders are known to catch small fish, aquatic insects, and tadpoles 1.
In your area, you may find fishing spiders living near:
Having aquatic homes also gives them the advantage of hunting on both land and water. It’s not uncommon to see fishing spiders running across the water’s surface, thanks to their ability to trap air bubbles on their legs 2.
It’s fascinating how well-adapted these spiders are to life near water, but it’s important to remember that they can still be found elsewhere. While wetlands may provide the ideal hunting grounds for fishing spiders, they’re also capable of living in other locations when needed.
Overview of Fishing Spiders
Fishing spiders, in the genus Dolomedes, are an interesting group of spiders within the Pisauridae family. These spiders are similar to wolf spiders in terms of their size and coloration. Their legs, however, are usually longer than those of wolf spiders. What sets them apart from other spiders is their unique hunting behavior, which includes walking on water and capturing prey such as small fish and aquatic insects.
Fishing spiders have a widespread distribution and can be found in various regions, including Florida and Texas. They are known by several other names, such as dock spiders, wharf spiders, raft spiders, and nursery web spiders. While the spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) and the dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) are among the most common species, other species like D. scriptus can also be encountered.
Some key characteristics to help identify fishing spiders include:
- Brownish-gray or brown markings on their bodies.
- Alternating bands of brown or black on their legs, which are longer compared to other spider species.
- Foremost legs have unique hair structures and claws adapted for walking on water.
These arachnids are hydrophobic, which enables them to walk on water without sinking, taking advantage of their remarkable vision and hunting behavior. They can be found near water sources such as lakes, streams, and ponds or in other habitats like stones and loose bark.
When it comes to reproduction, female fishing spiders protect their egg sacs until the spiderlings are ready to venture out on their own. Although these spiders may seem intimidating due to their size and appearance, they are generally shy and not aggressive towards humans.
In summary, fishing spiders are fascinating arachnids with unique hunting abilities and notable features that set them apart from other spider species. Their distribution, behavior, and characteristics make them an intriguing subject for those interested in learning more about the diverse world of spiders.
Behaviour and Adaptations
Fishing spiders, belonging to the Pisauridae family, are known for their unique adaptations that allow them to thrive near water. These spiders can be found in wetlands and areas with aquatic habitats.
Their hunting behavior involves catching prey both on land and in water. They can capture small fish, tadpoles, and aquatic insects with agility, thanks to their hydrophobic legs that utilize surface tension. You might even spot them running across water in pursuit of a meal.
Fishing spiders don’t rely on a web to catch prey; instead, they have incredible vision and use vibrations to locate downed insects. They can sense the slightest disturbance on the water’s surface, making them efficient predators. Some common prey includes crickets and dragonflies.
In terms of defense, they can unleash a potent bite. Their venom incapacitates insects and small vertebrates, while their strong chelicerae ensure a secure grip. However, despite their potency, their bites are rarely harmful to humans. Fishing spiders are also fierce defenders of their egg sacs, protecting them from predators like wasps.
Now, let’s compare Fishing Spiders with Wolf Spiders:
|Attribute||Fishing Spiders||Wolf Spiders|
|Habitat||Aquatic areas, wetlands||Terrestrial environments|
|Hunting method||Vision, vibrations||Good vision, crawling|
|Prey||Aquatic insects, tadpoles, small fish||Insects, small invertebrates|
|Web usage||No web||No web|
|Reproduction||Protect egg sacs||Carry young on their backs|
Fishing spiders’ adaptations related to living near water set them apart from other spider species, such as the wolf spider. From their waterproof legs to their keen sense of hunting on water’s surface, these arachnids truly embody remarkable adaptations to survive and thrive in their environment.
Fishing spiders, specifically Dolomedes tenebrosus, have a diverse diet primarily consisting of aquatic insects and small fish. They are known for being skilled predators, capable of capturing and consuming a variety of prey.
As a fishing spider, you will find them hunting for food near the water’s edge, and their diet includes:
- Insects: Fishing spiders prey on insects like water striders, crickets, and dragonflies.
- Small fish: Although they primarily focus on insects, these spiders also catch small fish when they have the opportunity.
- Frogs: Occasionally, you might observe a fishing spider feasting on a frog.
These spiders are not without their enemies, though. Birds and snakes are known to prey on fishing spiders.
Here’s a comparison table highlighting some features of the fishing spider diet:
|Aquatic Insects||Most Common||Ambushing near the water’s edge|
|Small Fish||Less Common||Ambushing in shallow water|
|Frogs||Occasional||Stealth by hiding and waiting|
With their wide-ranging diet, fishing spiders are adept predators in their environment. Remember, these fascinating creatures are a crucial part of the ecosystem and should be appreciated for their role in controlling insect populations near bodies of water.
Reproduction and Lifecycle
Fishing spiders, such as the Spotted Fishing Spider and D. tenebrosus, have a unique reproduction process. Let’s delve into key aspects of their lifecycle.
During mating season, the female spider creates an egg sac that contains her fertilized eggs. This is an essential part of the reproduction process. The egg sac provides protection, keeping the eggs secure from predators and environmental conditions.
As a parent, you’d appreciate how the mother Fishing Spider takes care of her offspring. She holds onto the egg sac until the spiderlings are ready to hatch. Once they’re prepared, she finds an ideal location to establish a nursery web. The web acts as a safe space for the newborns, ensuring they have a comfortable start in life.
Nursery webs serve multiple purposes:
- Protection from predators
- Shelter from harsh weather
- A place for the spiderlings to molt and grow
These spiderlings soon embark on their journey, leaving the safety of the nursery web. As they mature, they’ll continue the cycle of reproduction in their natural habitats, such as the areas surrounding ponds or in wooded environments.
In summary, Fishing Spider reproduction involves creating egg sacs, protecting the eggs, and establishing nursery webs. This efficient process ensures the survival and growth of the next generation of these fascinating spiders.
Fishing spiders, belonging to the Pisauridae family, display a variety of unique physical characteristics. Some common features include:
- Size: They are generally large, with some species having a similar size to wolf spiders.
- Color: Their color ranges from brownish gray to black, often with brown markings.
- Abdomen: Their abdomen is usually elongated and may have distinctive patterns.
These spiders also exhibit some differences in terms of their legs. The femora and tibia are generally quite robust, and they are equipped with sharp claws
Species Diversity and Distribution
Fishing spiders belong to the genus Dolomedes and are known for their aquatic abilities. They are often found near water and
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 – Possibly Fishing Spider from Costa Rica
Subject: Big-ass spider
Location: Manzanillo, Costa Rica
April 21, 2016 1:46 am
So I was fortunate enough to have a visit from this gal (I’m assuming) on my mosquito net over my bed. No mosquitos getting to me tonight!!
Was taken back by the sheer size…. but how impressive!! This is in Manzanillo, Costa Rica.
BTW….. not that I’m taking chances, what kind of spider is she and is she seriously poisonous? Thanks!!!
Signature: Arachnid lover
Dear Arachnid Lover,
We often try to guess an identity prior to viewing the images, and we were certain you were inquiring about a Huntsman Spider, but the front two pairs of legs on your spider are two short for a Huntsman. We believe your spider may be a Nursery Web Spider in the family Pisauridae, and it reminds us of a North American Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes. Fishing Spiders are quite large, but perfectly harmless. Here is a BugGuide image for comparison. We have not had much luck finding Costa Rican examples online. The young lady in the image looks quite enthralled with the spider.
Thank-you very much for the information. It too, reminds me of the spiders that come up from under the dock in the summertime! The critters down here are a bug lovers paradise!
Some people call Fishing Spiders, by the name Dock Spider.
Letter 2 – Fishing Spider from Costa Rica
Subject: fishing spider
Location: costa rica
March 27, 2013 12:30 am
I found on your amazing website it’s Dolomedes.
Do you have a latin name for it?
Signature: fred from belgium
This does appear to be one of the Nursery Web Spiders, but we cannot say for certain if it is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes. We are postdating this submission to post live to our site in the coming week as we will be away from the office a few days for the holidays.
I hope you had a good holiday… a time ago…
Do you remember my question about a (probably) fishing spider?
I’ll put is again on the website, ok?
thanks a lot
We did have a nice holiday and we were never able to determine a more accurate identification for your spider. It does remind us more of Trechalea gertschi than the Dolomedes species we are used to posting. We will contact Mandy Howe to see if she can provide an identificaton.
Letter 3 – Fishing Spider from Idaho
Subject: what kinda spider is this
Location: Boise Idaho
November 1, 2012 12:00 am
Found this spider in Western Idaho in October. It’s body is about .75”n inches and the legs bring to about 3.5”. can you identify what type of spider this could be. Thanks so much.
This looks like a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes, but the only species BugGuide lists in Idaho is Dolomedes triton, the Six Spotted Fishing Spider, and your individual is not that species. So while we are confident with the genus, we cannot provide a species identification. This might be a significant sighting.
Thanks for getting back with me so quickly. This was spotted at our sisters house who just moved from Spokane Washington. So is it a spider that could have come with them in their stuff? Thanks again for your help.
There are many more eastern species. We still think this is a significant sighting and we doubt it is from Spokane.
Letter 4 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider
Spider in Ohio
Well we have been finding spiders in the house lately and came here to find out what they are. Turns out they are wolf spiders…. Oh joy … NOT lol I must say I am NOT a fan of spiders. More the fact I am scared to death of them. Even coming to this site was very hard to do. lol But seeing I am here I wanted to asked you about one we saw in Meigs County in Ohio. At the end of a parking lot of a motel we stayed at there is a swampy area with cat tails and the sort. I saw some bird flying around a big puddle in the parking lot. When I went to see what they were looking at, I saw a spider. It was completly underwater and moving to the edge quickly. Size wise I guess I would say with legs included around 2 inches or so. I am sending a picture of it which shows the marking pretty good …Well as good as I could get with not wanting to get to close. Yes ME taking a picture of a spider. Guess it impressed me. lol
This is a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton. These amazing spiders are associated with wetlands, and they are capable of spending periods of time underwater, either to escape predators, like birds, or to catch prey, including small fish.
Letter 5 – Whitish Dolomedes
Need Identification Help on Spider
I was wondering if you could help me identify this particular spider. I live in Northeast Texas, about 10 feet off of a river. I at first thought it was some sort of wolf spider but its coloring was not the brown I am used to seeing. The silver color really jumped out and caught my attention, especially against the brown background. I can’t imagine this sneaking up on anything! J Also, does his stance (4 front legs together and forward) imply anything or is he just resting? Thanks for your time and help.
P.S. The board he is hanging out on is a 2×4 underneath my porch.
You have a fishing spider from the genus Dolomedes. These large spiders are usually found near water and are capable of catching small fish. I’m guessing your species is Dolomedes albineus, commonly called the Whitish Dolomedes. “This is a large species,” according to Comstock, “closely allied to D. tenebrosus. The female is easily recognized by a yellowish longitudinal band edged with black on the ventral (ed. note: your view is dorsal) aspect of the abdomen. … This is a Southern species. Hentz states that it does not dwell habitually in caves and cellars, but is usually found on the trunks of trees, yet in dark, shady places.” The stance appears to be a resting position.
Letter 6 – Northern Dolomedes
I live in Calvert County, Maryland and I found this HUGE spider hanging on the brick of my front porch. There is no web around and it looks like he live in a space behind the brick. Can you tell me what this might be??
Don’t be freaked out Autumn,
Your Northern Dolomedes, Dolomedes scriptus, is probably more afraid than you are. These are beautiful spiders which do not build a web, preferring to stalk prey. The female cares for her young in a very maternal manner. These spiders are also commonly called Fishing Spiders and Nursery Web Spiders since the only time they make a web is to care for their young. They are capable of catching small fish and are often found near water.
Letter 7 – Northern Dolomedes
Would love to know what spider this is and if it should be relocated?
We are craving more information, like exact size and location. Our guess is that you have photographed a beautiful Northern Dolomedes, Dolomedes scriptus, or possibly the Dark Dolomedes, Dolomedes tenebrosus, in late afternoon sunlight. These spiders are related to Wolf Spiders and are sometimes called Diving Spiders. They are quite large. This is one of the larger species and is common in the North. Please do not kill your beautiful spider, and rather relocate it.
Good Morning Daniel,
I live in Soutern New Jersey and please do not worry I would only relocate her were she dangerous. Seeing as how she has been totally non-aggressive to me while taking her photos I am happy to let her raise her babies in my yard. I will be wearing shoes in the yard from now on LOL She is about 3 inches in diameter She was back on the dryer spout last night if she is there again tonight I will try to get afew more shots of her. I was also told my another bug guy that he thought it was a “fishing spider” thanx,
Hi again Jennifer,
I’m so happy to hear you will be cohabitating. Dolomedes are also called fishing spiders or diving spiders. The large ones can dive below the surface of a pond and capture a small fish. They are very maternal, with the mother spider caring for her spiderlings, allowing them to crawl on her back for several days after emerging from the eggsac she also carries.
Letter 8 – Dolomedes triton
I think I’ve identified it on my own!
Thanks for your help!
We are wondering what you think you have here. This is definitely a Dolomedes Fishing Spider. The silvery white line around the cephalothorax is a good indication this is Dolomedes triton, but the spots on the abdomen seem to be missing. That is still our best guess at a species identification as it doesn’t resemble any other Dolomedes.
Letter 9 – Fishing Spider with NEW LEGS!!!!!
Can you identify this for me…?
I’m curious about this spider. Is it a fishing spider. It was on the side of the dock early in the a.m. at Little Lake St. Joseph in Muskoka Ontario. Interesting site! Have it bookmarked now
Your spider is indeed a Fishing Spider, one of the Dolomedes species. It does illustrate an interesting aspect of spider physiology since it has regrown two legs. According to Comstock: “The Reproduction of Lost Organs.– The reproducing of legs that have been lost by immature spiders is frequently observed. If a leg be lost by a young spider the wound soon heals, and at the succeeding mount the bud of a new leg appears. This bud increases in size at each succeeding moult; and in time, if the process begins early enough in the life of the spider, a functional leg is obtained.” In your image, the two middle legs on the left (the spider’s right) have regenerated. Your photograph is a very interesting addition to our site.
Letter 10 – Fishing Spider or Common Water Spider from Australia
Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 8:56 PM
Got this lovely lady in my garden today. She is Dolomedes instabilis, in the Pisauridae family of fishing spiders, although many in the family never go near water but build nests amongst green leaves, as this one is doing on a chili plant. Have a merry Xmas and a Happy New Year all.
This is very exciting. We were not aware that Dolemedes Fishing Spiders were found in Australia. We are linking to the Brisbane Insect Web Site and another page on the same site that calls the species the Common Water Spider.
Letter 11 – Fishing Spider
Is this a fishing spider?
Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 7:24 PM
We had a pond in our front yard and have swamp land surrounding us. But this guy lives on and under our deck. About 1 foot from our back door. He can see me coming and ducks under the deck planks when i get to close. I’d estimate him to be 3 or 4 inches from toe to toe. He is very scary! At first a wolf spider was all that came to mind.
Central New Jersey
This is a magnificent specimen of the Northern Dolomedes, Dolomedes tenebrosus, one of the Fishing Spiders. They are generally found near water and the species is capable of submerging itself both to escape predators and to capture prey which may include small fish.
Letter 12 – Fishing Spider with egg sac
Giant spider the size of my hand
July 29, 2009
Hi WTB- My family was heading out to our above ground pool to swim on a VERY hot afternoon- approx 95 degrees F. When my husband noticed a GIANT spider sitting on top of the railing with an egg sack. I think its facinating the kids think its gross 🙂 She wasn’t hurting anything- so I got out my camera got some good pix; and then gently moved her to our wood pile with a stick which she gladly grabbed onto without fighting…. maybe you can tell us what she is.
Sincerely, Amanda and the Weikel family
Hi Amanda and Weikel Family,
This Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus, is perfectly harmless, though we expect she would try to defend her egg sac if you threatened. Fishing Spiders are generally found near water and they are capable of diving beneath the surface to escape predators or to hunt prey. They can catch small fish underwater. Fishing Spiders carry their egg sacs around in their chelicerae or jaws, as opposed to Wolf Spider that drag the egg sac behind them on a silk thread. We hope your children learn your tolerance of the lower beasts.
Letter 13 – Fishing Spider with Spiderlings
Spider, nursery web, egg sack
September 7, 2009
I photographed this spider near a creek in Maple Grove, MN – at the Maple Grove Arboretum.
Maple Grove MN
Your spider is a Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus. Her eggs have hatched and it appears that some of the spiderlings may have already molted.
Letter 14 – Possibly Six Spotted Fishing Spider in Costa Rica
graceful brown tropical spider
March 28, 2010
This spider was basking on a leaf in the Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica last summer. It was a little larger than a quarter, including its legs, and didn’t even flinch when I got up-close and personal with my camera. Do you know what kind of spider it is?
costa Rica, Pacific Coast
This sure looks to us like a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton. As we write this, we are not certain if the species ranges to Costa Rica. We are linking to an image on BugGuide that looks very close. The Six Spotted Fishing Spider is rarely found far from water, and it is one of the most aquatic members of the genus. Was there a body of water near where the photo was taken?
Thanks for the quick response! There was a body of water very nearby. I found
the spider on a path about 100 yards or so from the Pacific Ocean, and there
are several springs nearby as well.
Calm ponds are the preferred habitat.
Letter 15 – Fishing Spider: Molting or Mating???
Fishing Spider – Dolomedes scriptus?
May 25, 2010
Searched tons of images and dolomedes scriptus is the closest I can find. It appears the 2 spiders mated and the female consumed the male. The 2 of them were hanging from the flagstone at the edge of our pond. I also have a short 10 second video I shot of them.
Dear R. Kitchen,
Wow, these photos are awesome. We believe you have correctly identified these Fishing Spiders as Dolomedes scriptus based on images and information on BugGuide. At first we ran with your mating and cannibalism scenario, but upon closer inspection, we believe you have documented the aftermath of a Fishing Spider molting. Spiders do not mate like insects do. Rather, a male spider transfers his spermatazoa to the female with his pedipalps. We would really love to get feedback from an arachnologist regarding your documentation. We have yet to post any videos to our website, and if you would like to submit your video, we will discuss the matter with our webmaster as to how best to showcase it on our site. Thank you again for submitting these phenomenal images.
Thanks to everyone who corrected our error. In our haste to post this letter and photos, we incorrectly indicated that the male transfers his spermatozoa with chelicera rather than his pedipalps. We have made the correction.