What Do Fishing Spiders Eat: A Friendly Guide to Their Diet

Fishing spiders, belonging to the genus Dolomedes, are fascinating creatures usually found near water sources. These spiders are known for their ability to catch and consume prey not only on land but also in water, making them quite versatile hunters.

The primary diet of fishing spiders consists of small fish and aquatic insects. When they are hungry, these arachnids employ their unique skill of walking on the water surface to snatch their prey. This extraordinary hunting method relies on their hydrophobic legs, which prevent them from sinking.

Various species of Dolomedes have different habitats and hunting strategies, but the majority of them live close to water bodies. Some species may also catch insects, small amphibians, or even other spiders, showcasing their adaptability when it comes to food sources. So, the next time you come across a fishing spider near water, you’ll know what’s on their menu!

Anatomy and Features

Physical Attributes

Fishing spiders, especially the dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus), are known for their large size and hairy appearance. Females can measure over an inch, with a leg span of more than three inches1. Their legs are long and strong, enabling them to walk on water surfaces and catch prey.

Sensory Perceptions

Fishing spiders have quite sensitive sensory perceptions. They don’t have ears but can detect vibrations in their surroundings, which helps them locate their prey. For example, in aquatic environments, they sense vibrations in the water to locate fish or insects.

Characteristic Marks

The color and patterns of fishing spiders can vary, but they often have a dark color, with some having light markings on their abdomen2. Here are some characteristic marks of fishing spiders:

  • Dark colored body, sometimes with light markings
  • Hairy appearance

Gender Differences

There are a few gender differences in fishing spiders. Females are typically larger than males, often with a more pronounced abdomen. Males, on the other hand, tend to be smaller and may have slightly different color patterns3.

Spider’s Web

Fishing spiders, unlike many other spider species, do not rely on webs to catch their prey. Instead, they hunt by sensing vibrations and ambushing their prey. Their silk is primarily used for creating anchor points or safety lines when they venture out on the water4.

Habitat & Distribution

By Continent

Fishing spiders, specifically the Dolomedes genus, are commonly found in various continents such as:

  • North America: United States, Canada
  • Asia
  • South America
  • Europe

These spiders have adapted to different environments across these continents, but they generally prefer to be near water sources.

Living Conditions

Fishing spiders are known for their ability to navigate the surface of the water with ease. They are often found in a variety of habitats, including:

  • Rocks: Fishing spiders may hide in the crevices of rocks located near water.
  • Trees: They can be spotted on tree trunks close to water sources.
  • Shrubs: Fishing spiders hide amidst shrubs near the water’s edge.
  • Ground: Some fishing spiders prefer staying on the ground near water.

When it comes to the natural habitat, fishing spiders require a moist environment and specific temperature, making them well-suited for life near the water.

If you’re interested in keeping fishing spiders in a more controlled environment like terrariums, ensure that you provide the right living conditions. For instance:

  • Dry Set-ups: Some species might need dry set-ups with rocks and crevices for hiding.
  • Moist Set-ups: Other species may require moist habitats with ample water sources.

Here is a comparison table showing the preferred habitat for fishing spiders versus a controlled environment:

Natural Habitat Terrariums
Near water sources Moist set-ups
On rocks or trees Dry set-ups
In shrubs or ground Suitable substrate

Remember to always consider the specific needs of the fishing spider species you have, as different species might have diverse preferences in their living conditions.

Feeding Behavior & Prey

Diet & Feeding

Fishing spiders, as their name suggests, are predators that primarily feed on aquatic prey. They have an impressive hunting skill that allows them to catch their prey both on the water’s surface and underneath it. You can often find these spiders waiting patiently near the water’s edge, with their front legs resting on the surface, ready to detect any vibrations made by passing prey.

Using their speed and agility, fishing spiders can snatch various prey such as small fish, insects, and tadpoles. They can even prey on small vertebrates like frogs and lizards. These spiders inject venom into their prey, immobilizing it before consuming it. However, their diet can also vary based on their habitat and the availability of various food sources.

Types of Prey

Fishing spiders feed on a diverse range of prey, including:

  • Aquatic insects: These may include water striders, dragonfly larvae, and other aquatic insects that can be found near water bodies.
  • Small fish: Fishing spiders are known to capture and consume small fish such as minnows and guppies.
  • Invertebrates: They will also prey on other spiders, including species such as wolf spiders.
  • Frogs and tadpoles: Their diet may also include small frogs and tadpoles that are found in aquatic environments.
  • Small vertebrates: In some instances, fishing spiders have been observed preying on small lizards and even snakes.

Here is a comparison table of some common prey for fishing spiders:

Prey Type Example(s) Hunting Strategy
Aquatic insects Water striders, dragonfly larvae Wait on water’s surface or nearby
Small fish Minnows, guppies Snatch directly from water
Invertebrates Wolf spiders, other spiders Ambush predators near water
Frogs and tadpoles Small frogs, tadpoles Capturing with speed and agility
Small vertebrates Lizards, snakes Overpowering or ambushing

In conclusion, fishing spiders are versatile and opportunistic predators. They adapt their feeding behavior according to the availability of prey in their aquatic habitats. By consuming a variety of prey, fishing spiders play a significant role in maintaining the balance in their respective ecosystems.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Fishing spiders exhibit a fascinating reproduction process. Males and females participate in a unique mating ritual. After mating, the female produces an egg sac to protect her offspring. Here are some key aspects of their reproduction and lifespan:

  • Mating: Male fishing spiders approach the females carefully and engage in a mating ritual. This ritual involves tapping and vibrating their legs to communicate with the female. They transfer their sperm using specialized appendages called pedipalps.

  • Egg Sac: Female fishing spiders create a silk-based egg sac to encase their eggs. The size and color of the egg sac can vary by species. The female will carry the egg sac around with them, either in their jaws or attached to their spinnerets, making sure it’s safe from predators.

  • Hatchlings: Once the eggs hatch, the spiderlings emerge from the egg sac. The hatchlings stay close to their mother, benefiting from her protection and guidance as they molt and grow.

  • Nursery Web: Some fishing spiders, like the Dolomedes species, build a unique nursery web structure to provide a safe haven for their hatchlings. This web is made of silk and located near or on the water’s surface, offering protection to the young spiders.

Fishing spiders can live for a couple of years, depending on their species, environment, and availability of prey. Understanding their reproductive behavior and lifespan helps us appreciate the fascinating world of these aquatic arachnids.

Interaction with Humans

Fishing spiders are known to live around water and are skilled hunters in their natural habitat. Although they might seem intimidating, they rarely pose a threat to humans or pets. When encountered, these spiders will usually try to flee rather than attack.

In rare situations, a fishing spider might feel threatened and bite in self-defense. Their venom is not considered dangerous to humans or pets. If you’re bitten, you may experience mild pain and swelling, but nothing life-threatening. It’s important to remember that the likelihood of this happening is very low.

Fishing spiders are beneficial as they help to control the population of various insects and pests around water sources. They can be an asset to your property by reducing the number of unwanted insects.

To avoid any unpleasant interactions with fishing spiders, be cautious when approaching their habitats, especially near water. If you find one trapped in your home or garden, you can gently relocate it without harm.

Keep in mind that these spiders are a natural part of the ecosystem, and it’s best for both parties to maintain a respectful distance. So, while being aware of their presence, you can also appreciate the role they play in our environment.

Individual Species

Dolomedes Tenebrosus

The Dark Fishing Spider (Dolomedes Tenebrosus) is commonly found in wooded areas near water and is part of the fishing spider genus, Dolomedes. These spiders are skilled predators, known to hunt small fish and aquatic insects by walking on the surface of the water source. Here are some of their features:

  • Size: Females are larger than males, with a body length of up to 1 inch.
  • Color: Dark brown to gray, with lighter markings on their legs and abdomen.
  • Habitat: Usually near water, but also can be found in wooded areas away from water.

When it comes to their diet, these spiders prefer aquatic insects, but occasionally they may catch small fish as well source.

Dolomedes Triton

The Spotted Fishing Spider (Dolomedes Triton) is also part of the Dolomedes genus, but has distinct markings that set it apart from the Dark Fishing Spider. These spiders can also run across water surfaces to hunt prey source. Here are some key characteristics:

  • Size: Similar to Dark Fishing Spiders, females are larger than males, and can have a body length of up to 1 inch.
  • Color: Brown with distinct white or cream-colored spots on their legs and abdomen.
  • Habitat: Typically found in aquatic habitats such as ponds, swamps, and streams.

Regarding their diet, Dolomedes Triton primarily feeds on aquatic insects, but may also consume small fish without hesitation source.

Comparison Table

Features Dolomedes Tenebrosus Dolomedes Triton
Size Up to 1 inch (female) Up to 1 inch (female)
Color Dark brown/gray Brown with white/cream spots
Habitat Wooded areas near water Ponds, swamps, and streams
Diet Aquatic insects, small fish Aquatic insects, small fish

So, both Dark Fishing Spiders and Spotted Fishing Spiders are part of the Dolomedes genus and share similar features. However, they do differ in their habitats and color patterns, which makes it easier for you to identify each one in the wild.

Interesting Facts and Additional Information

Fishing spiders belong to the Pisauridae family, and the most common genus is Dolomedes. These fascinating creatures have some unique features and behaviors that make them stand out in the world of spiders.

  • Fishing spiders live mostly near water, as their name suggests. They are capable of catching small fish, aquatic insects, and even tadpoles.
  • You might be surprised to learn that these spiders don’t build webs to catch their prey. Instead, they rely on their excellent hunting skills and stealth approach to capture food.
  • These spiders have an incredible ability to^walk on water. They use their specialized, buoyant legs to glide across the surface with ease, occasionally even diving below the surface for a short time.
  • Fishing spiders do not live in a burrow; instead, they prefer to inhabit the area around bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, and rivers. This habitat choice makes it easier for them to catch their aquatic prey.
  • Their daily mist helps fishing spiders stay hydrated. They need sufficient humidity to prevent desiccation, so the presence of water in their environment plays a crucial role.

Fishing spiders can be found in different places, including Florida, where they have adapted to the local conditions. As you can see, these spiders are fascinating creatures with a unique set of behaviors and traits that allow them to thrive in their watery habitats. So next time you’re near a body of water, keep an eye out for these incredible arachnids!

Relevant Media

Fishing spiders are fascinating creatures that inhabit aquatic environments. To understand their feeding habits better, there are various media resources that can provide more information, such as videos and photos.

Watching a video of fishing spiders in action can help you grasp their hunting techniques. Observe how they use their long legs and agility to capture prey on the water’s surface.

Fishing spiders primarily feed on insects, small fish, and other small aquatic animals. Photos can provide examples of their prey and give you an idea of the size and types of animals they consume.

Here are some key characteristics of fishing spiders:

  • Ability to walk on the water’s surface
  • Long legs to catch prey and provide stability
  • Diverse habitats near water, such as ponds and streams

When it comes to learning about fishing spiders and their diet, consider the following:

  • Watching videos to observe their hunting techniques
  • Examining photos of their prey and habitats
  • Taking note of their unique adaptations for an aquatic lifestyle

These resources will not only enhance your knowledge but also provide richer context and appreciation for these amazing creatures. Remember, there’s always more to discover as you explore the world of fishing spiders and their fascinating eating habits.

Footnotes

  1. (https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/fishing_spiders)

  2. (https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/aquatic-spiders)

  3. (https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/fishing-spiders-and-wolf-spiders)

  4. (https://extension.psu.edu/fishing-spider)

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 – Long Legged Fishing Spider from Arizona: Trechalea gertschi

 

strange spider in Sabino Canyon near Tucson
Hello Bugman!
I found this strange spider in the Sabino Canyon near Tucson. It was June, nearly 110°, and the water ponds in the canyon bottom were decreasing at a high pace. Around one of the ponds some of these spiders were sitting and some had amphibia larvae in their fangs. Strange, they rather looked like giant crab spiders; the one on the photo also moved like a crab. Do you have any idea what that might be? Thanks a lot!
Greetings from Daniel Jestrzemski (who really enjoyed his time in the US Southwest)

Hi Daniel,
This looked like one of the Dolomedes Fishing spiders, but leaner. The behavior you describe, including eating tadpoles, fits. We weren’t sure Fishing Spiders were found in Arizona. Then we located an image of Dolomedes gertschi. It looks identical to your spider and it was photographed in Arizona. Another posted image of Dolomedes gertschi looks quite different. It appears this species was first described in 1973.

Correction from Mandy Howe:  Trechalea gertschi
April 1, 2013
Hi Daniel (x2),

My name is Mandy, and I’ve talked to you guys once before (back in April 2012) about getting a link added to the “bug links” section, so that’s how I have both of your email addresses. 🙂

I came across a post at What’s That Bug that has an image of a spider that is not very commonly photographed and has a very restricted distribution, and I’d like to contact the photographer and see if they’d be willing to submit the images to BugGuide.net.  Are you guys allowed to give out their contact info?

The post is actually misidentified on your site (it’s family Trechaleidae, Trechalea gertschi) but it’s the one at this link: 2008/01/18/fishing-spider-from-arizona-dolomedes-gertschi-perhaps/.

Thanks for any help contacting Daniel!  (Whoa, another Daniel!) I know you guys are super busy, so don’t feel bad if there’s nothing you can do. I just figured it’s worth a shot to ask.

Mandy Howe
editor at BugGuide.net
staff at Spiders.us
reviewer at CalPhotos.org
spider consultant for AskANaturalist.org

P.S. I occasionally see some other spiders in passing that had an incorrect ID (e.g. the same page that originally brought the Trechalea to my attention actually had a Hogna baltimoriana wolf spider on it that was ID’d as a Dolomedes fishing spider).  I know you guys can ID practically everything under the sun, so I don’t mean that as a criticism (I love your site and the work you do to enlighten the masses), I just wanted to say that if you need any extra eyes on spider submissions in the future, feel free to contact me.  I’d be happy to help on the tough/iffy IDs, and am really passionate about the subject.  …

Hi Mandy,
Wow, this is an old posting.  We don’t really hold onto email addresses, but I will see if I can locate the contact information you requested.  Please provide a comment on the Wolf Spider incorrectly identified as a Fishing Spider so that I can make a correction.

Trechalea gertschi
Trechalea gertschi

Ed. Note:  April 10, 2013
Since we were searching our archives on another computer for the original digital files of these images, we thought we could post higher resolution photos as well, but alas, the original files are quite small.

Trechalea gertschi
Trechalea gertschi

Letter 2 – Fishing Spider eats Lizard

 

spider/ brown anole carnage
Dear bugman-
We saw this spider kill a brown anole in a swamp in Big Cypress National Preserve. It was about 4- 4 1/2″ in diameter. We couldn’t figure out exactly what species it was, we were hoping you could help. These spiders are all over this part of the preserve, would they ever bother humans? We also just thought it was a cool picture for your website, we hope you use it. Thanks bugman.
Lisa and Jimi

Hi Lisa and Jimi,
Awesome photo of one of the Dolomedes Fishing Spiders. They walk on water and dive below the surface to catch fish as well as catching lizards on trees.

Letter 3 – Probably Fishing Spider eating Dragonfly

 

spider eating a dragon fly.
I have no idea what this is….I think it could be a fishing spider, There was no web present in the area (a shed in Milo Maine). It caught the dragon fly without leaving the spot I took the picture.
Robert A. Prescott

Hi Robert,
Your photo does not provide an angle for easy identification, but it sure is a dramatic image. We believe, based on size and description, that this is a Fishing Spider that has made fast food of a Dragonfly.

Letter 4 – Fishing Spider

 

scary spider
Hello, I’ve been looking on the web for about an hour now trying to identify this spider that I found today in a wooded area in Maryland. It’s size(3 to 3 1/2 inches or so sprawled out) and menacing appearance scared me today when I turned over a board. Can you please identify this for me? When I tried to scare it off of the board ( I didn’t want to squash it), it released a white substance out of its rear at me.
Thanks for your help,
Sid

Hi Sid,
Your photograph of a Fishing Spider from the genus Dolomedes is pretty great. These awesome spiders are actually capable of walking on water and then diving below the surface where they can remain more than 30 minutes. Sometimes they even catch small fish, hence the common name. They are also called Nursery Web Spiders because of the maternal behavior the females exhibit. Though large, they are not dangerous to humans. Your species is most probably Dolomedes tenebrosus or Dark Dolomedes. It is one of the largest species.

Letter 5 – Fishing Spider

 

Very Large Spider in Garage
Hello,
I was getting my lawn mower out of the garage this morning and came across this big guy. Can you please Identify and let me know if it’s dangerous?
Thank You.
Michael

Hi Michael
Though startlingly large, spiders from the genus Dolomedes, commonly known as Fishing Spiders, are harmless. They do not build webs but hunt for food. They are often found near water and they can dive below the surface and remain there for thirty minutes. They often catch small fish while underwater.

Letter 6 – Fishing Spider eats Tree Frog

 

Fishing Spider
July 28, 2009
WTB,
I promised you these a long time ago.  Here are the images of a spider
eating the frog.  It’s a little hard to make out but it is probably a green
tree frog and this is on a leaf of a Sagittaria.  It occurred in our little
nature area, the Kiawah Swamp Garden.  Not sure of the actual type of
spider.  Kinda creepy though; don’t usually consider consumption in that
direction among Phyla.
Here are a couple of other links for your enjoyment.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PZTILeS4jo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFg2-bkjwPg
KICA Maint
Kiawah Island, SC

February 29, 2008
Thanks for checking on this.  We’ve used your site to ID a lot of our
questions already but this one had us stumped.  I’ll have to send you an
image we have of a spider, I’m assuming a fishing spider, eating a green
tree frog.  It was back pre-digital so we’ll see how the scan comes out.
Thanks again for the great work you do,
Norm Shea
Director, Lakes Management

Six Spotted Fishing Spider eats Tree Frog
Six Spotted Fishing Spider eats Tree Frog

Dear KICA Maint,
Thanks for sending these amazing documents of a Six Spotted Fishing Spider eating a Tree Frog.  It is a wonderful addition to our recent posting of a Common House Spider feasting on a Skink.
We enjoyed watching your videos of Alligators.

Six Spotted Fishing Spider eats Tree Frog
Six Spotted Fishing Spider eats Tree Frog

Letter 7 – Bug of the Month June 2010: Fishing Spider, probably Dolomedes scriptus

 

Large water spider on dock
May 31, 2010
We see these big ones all summer long on the riverside docks. Can you tell what kind it is? i always try to save them, but occasionally family members will kill, claiming to have suffered awful bites. i don’t know, I was never bitten by one, so I wonder what they are….For size reference, it is sitting on a 2×6 board. Very fast, too. This one was doing something with it’s legs, so they look funny in some of the pics but it was unharmed 🙂
Thanks,
James
Fairfield, Maine, USA

Fishing Spider

Hi Frank,
Your spider is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes, probably Dolomedes scriptus based on images posted to BugGuide.  Fishing Spiders are perfectly harmless, though they might be capable of biting a person.  That is not something we have ever received a report about.  Fishing Spiders are generally found near water, and they are capable of running across the water’s surface and even diving beneath the water and remaining for short periods of time.  Some Fishing Spiders are able to catch small fish.

Letter 8 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider eats Tadpole

 

fishing spider??
August 22, 2011 10:17 am
i posted pics to your facebbok page and have tried 3 time s unsuccessfully ot send them to you on here, it wont upload them. its a green spider, in the water and it had grabbed a tiny tadpole out of the water. its beena  couple of months since i posted them! wondering if you can help!
Signature: BIBEF

we do not check the facebook pages.  We reserve that as an open forum.  We only post letters that come to our website directly.  We are very curious about the photos of the spider you describe and we would love to see the photos.  Your aphid photos did arrive correctly.  Try attaching the spider photos to this response and please add all the information on the sighting, like location and date.
Thanks

hope it works this way, i have seen spiders near water, but never IN the water. the one pic is a good one of the spider, you can see its feet pressing on the surface of the water, and the second which sadly came out blurry, you can see the tadpole it grabbed out of the water in its mouth. i was only able to get the one with te tadpole and almost fell in the pond trying to get that one, so thats why only the blurry one! ive look ed at fishing spiders on your site and they dont really look like this one, but that could just be me!!

Six Spotted Fishing Spider

Dear Bibef,
We are very happy we requested you to resend these photos.  Other letters from you have come from Ohio.  Is this also Ohio?  This is definitely a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, and we have identified it as a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton.  We have some old images in our archives, including these images from Louisiana, and this image from Florida,  but your image is the only we have received depicting a food chain image with aquatic prey.

Six Spotted Fishing Spider eats Tadpole

yes ohio, caesars creek state park to be exact, and thank you, fun finding out they come in a variety of colors!!

Letter 9 – Fishing Spider: Dolomedes vittatus

 

Spider ID- possibly a fishing spider
Location: Muskegon County Michigan
September 4, 2011 7:32 pm
Hi Bugman. I adjunct at a community college and frequently get community requests for identification. Someone brought me this beautiful spider last week. She found it near a stream in western Michigan. It has the general body shape of a wolf spider but the body is over an inch long. After some crude internet searching I feel that Dolomedes vittatus looks very similar and should indeed be found near a stream. I took the following photos with the poor dear living in a large jar with vegetation the concerned citizen collected at the site. I have already told her its more than likely some sort of fishing spider , but I’m sure she would surely like to know if I’m mistaken. Thanks!
Signature: Beth Walker

Fishing Spider

Hi Beth,
Your photos do not look as though they were taken in a confined, man-made habitat.  We hope this magnificent spider will soon be returned to its natural state.  We agree that this is a Fishing Spider, and of all the species in the genus
Dolomedes on BugGuide, we agree that Dolomedes vittatus appears to be the closest visual match.

Dolomedes vittatus

Even the eye arrangement on your spider matches the face of a Dolomedes vittatus posted to BugGuide.

Fishing Spider


Letter 10 – Fishing Spider: Dolomedes vittatus

 

Subject: Fishing Spider OR Nursery Web Spider?
Location: Newport, New Hampshire
September 23, 2013 9:43 pm
While out ”river walking” in the Sugar River, in Newport, New Hampshire, i saw this beauty.
I am NOT a big fan of spiders…in fact they terrify me. This one caught my eyes with its markings.
It seemed to be able to walk on water, and had very little fear as i walked around it. When i bent down to take a photo, i must have startled it, because it ran very fast over the rocks, and left behind a few little droplets of a milky liquid.
*On Google Maps, it was seen in Newport, Sullivan County, New Hampshire. Along the East side of the Sugar River, 400 feet West of 109 South Main Street.
Signature: Tiffanie

Fishing Spider:  Dolomedes vittatus
Fishing Spider: Dolomedes vittatus

Ed. Note:  We will write more in the morning.

Hi Tiffanie,
As a point of clarification, all Fishing Spiders are Nursery Web Spiders, but not all Nursery Web Spiders are Fishing Spiders.  The Fishing Spiders are in the genus
Dolomedes, and the genus is contained in the Nursery Web Spider family Pisauridae.  Nursery Web Spiders are among the most protective spider mothers with the female carrying around the egg sac in her chelicerae or fangs until she finds a suitable place to construct her nursery web.  She remains to guard the youngsters until she dies or they disperse.  Nursery Web Spiders including Fishing Spiders generally only survive a single season.  We believe your Fishing Spider is Dolomedes vittatus based on photos posted to BugGuide.  Fishing Spiders in the genus Dolomedes are often found near water and and you observed, they are capable of walking on water.  They can also dive beneath the surface and remain there for an extended period of time to escape predators and some even develop the skills to catch small fish and other aquatic life

Letter 11 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: Spider
Location: Holliston, MA
June 7, 2014 12:42 pm
Hi bug man this guy was outside of my garage. We have wetlands on backyard so we see spiders but this one is new. Live in holliston ma saw on 6/7/14 during the day. Is it dangerous?
Signature: Spider

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

This is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes, and they are considered harmless.

Letter 12 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: Wolf or Fishing Spider???
Location: Chocowinity, NC
June 12, 2014 4:33 am
Found this in Chocowinity, NC in the garage. House is off the river on a canal access. We see these all the time in our areas of Eastern NC and are not sure exactly what it is. Some call it a Wolf Spider, and it resembles a Dark Fishing Spider. Can you tell what it is?
My husband, who is a home inspector and sees this all the time, says they are not aggressive. Not sure why they need to be, at that size… I would hurt myself!
Signature: PZ

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Hi PZ,
There is not enough detail to be certain, but we would lean toward Fishing Spider in genus
Dolomedes.

Letter 13 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject: Very Large Spiders in Tennessee
Location: Nashville, TN
July 1, 2014 3:46 pm
I have found a few of these big spiders in my house this year. This is the first time I have come across them. They seem to be slow moving, but they do jump.
Signature: Diane

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Hi Diane,
This is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes and they are considered harmless to humans.  Fishing Spiders are generally found not far from a source of water.

Letter 14 – Fishing Spider from Canada

 

Subject: Harmless? I hope.
Location: Brampton Ontario Canada
May 29, 2017 10:32 am
Saw this in my backyard today. Located in southern Ontario, Canada.
Signature: Chris

Fishing Spider

Dear Chris,
This is a harmless Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, probably a Dolomedes tenebrosus, and BugGuide lists the habitat as:  “Bushes, rocks, etc., near permanent bodies of water, sometimes in dry woodlands.”  Fishing Spiders are capable of walking on the surface of water and they can also dive beneath the surface to escape predators or to capture prey, including small fish.  Fishing Spiders are also called Dock Spiders because they are often found on docks near water.

That is fantastic information. Thanks for the reply. Btw, I never harmed it. Let it do its business. I have seen them in the yard before and wondered what they were. This makes sense as we have a pond in our yard and woods at the back of our property so the habitat description perfectly matches our neighbourhood.
Chris

Letter 15 – Fishing Spider, we believe

 

Subject: Huntsman Spider?
Location: Nashville, TN
June 29, 2017 9:02 pm
Just curious if this is a huntsman spider
Signature: Spider Identification

Fishing Spider, we believe

Your image detail is not ideal for exact species identification, but we are certain that this is NOT a Huntsman Spider.  We believe it is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes, but we would not rule out that it might be a Wolf Spider like this Thin-Legged Wolf Spider pictured on BugGuide.

Letter 16 – Long Legged Fishing Spider

 

Subject:  Details on this scary spider!
Geographic location of the bug:  Sabino Canyon seasonal pool
Date: 11/04/2017
Time: 01:36 AM EDT
I found this spider FISHING for chub in Sabino Canyon, in a seasonal pool. Date – October 30, 2017 at about 3:00 in the afternoon. Outside air temp was warm, about 88 degrees. At first I thought the spider was trapped on the water, but no, it was clearly able to move on top of and stay above the water. It would dip it’s mandibles in and tap-tap-tap the water, I suspect to draw the fish, and it did bring them close. Either that or it’s size, about half the size of my adult male hand, so it cast a shadow. Any details would be appreciated!
How you want your letter signed:  Rob Bremmer

Long Legged Fishing Spider

Dear Rob,
We have a very old posting in our archives of the Long Legged Fishing Spider,
Trechalea gertschi from the family Trechaleidae that was also sighted in Sabino Canyon, and we believe that is also the species to which your individual belongs.  Since the time the images were submitted to our site, there have been additional postings to BugGuide.  We are curious about your definition of a “seasonal pool” because we don’t know of any fish other than some Killifish that lay eggs in the mud of ponds that dry out, the eggs hatching with the next rainy season.

​Hi Daniel,
By seasonal, I mean that it is part of flowing and running water when wet season allows, and isolated shrinking warm pools as heat of summer evaporates the water. I heard from the rangers that they re-stocked the chub fish because they had died out, and now, apparently, they are able to make it through a full rainy / dry season.​
Thanks for the clarification Rob.
Have you ever seen a photo of a spider fishing like that? It’s a first for me and I’m thrilled to have caught it! Wish I could have lingered all day to see how it played out but the sun was past noon and we still had to hike out.
Rob Bremmer
Yes we have.  We sent you a link to a Long Legged Fishing Spider from our archives.  That predates any postings for the species on BugGuide.  Your submission is our second documentation of this interesting Long Legged Fishing Spider that resembles a Flattie more than it does a traditional Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes.

 

Letter 17 – Fishing Spider and Stonefly Nymphs

 

Subject:  Beauty and a beast
Geographic location of the bug:  Nova Scotia, Canada
Date: 07/19/2018
Time: 05:41 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi Bugman!
I was recently working on stream habitat assessments and ran into a gorgeous spider. I believe it’s a fishing spider (six-spotted?), but I’m not certain and was hoping for some confirmation. Isn’t she (maybe a he…) a beauty??
…  Here’s hoping!
How you want your letter signed:  Many thanks, Van

Six Spotted Fishing Spider and Stonefly Nymphs

Hi Van,
We are going to split Beauty and The Beast apart for posting purposes.  The spider does appear to be a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, but we are not certain of the species.  The other insects on the rock appear to be Stonefly larvae.

Letter 18 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject:  What is this bug ?
Geographic location of the bug:  on the Hillsborough river in Tampa Florida
Date: 08/12/2018
Time: 12:07 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I was kayaking on the Hillsborough river – yesterday August 10th, at about 11am.  I saw this thing floating on the water, and then it just disappeared under the water.  About 10 seconds later it came back up to the top.  It was fairly large, about 5″ long – so it doesn’t seem to fit any of the water strider pics I’ve been able to find online.  It started “skating” towards my kayak so I used my paddle to swirl the water so it could not get to my boat.  I can’t find anything about this online.  Any ideas ?
How you want your letter signed:  With an answer – LOL

Fishing Spider

How exciting.  You had an encounter with a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes, most likely a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton, the member of the genus that is most often found “walking on water.”  Fishing Spiders earned their common name because the most aquatic members of the genus are able to dive beneath the surface of the water both to escape predators and to capture prey, including small fish, tadpoles and aquatic insects.

Letter 19 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject:  Fishing Spider
Geographic location of the bug:  Southwest Florida (Naples, FL)
Date: 09/12/2018
Time: 05:19 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  The fishing spider in the photo was on the water’s surface at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida, on September 7, 2018. It is not one of our four native fishing spiders (D. triton, D.okefinakensis, D.albineus, P.mina). Is this an exotic, and if so, do you know what it is?
How you want your letter signed:  DBrewer

Fishing Spider

Dear DBrewer,
This does resemble
Dolomedes triton in our opinion.  According to BugGuide:  “This species and D. striatus appear to have striped femurs. While all other species have banded femurs.”  Perhaps one of our readers will have a different idea.

Letter 20 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject:  What is this large spider? 2nd request
Geographic location of the bug:  Northeast Maine
Date: 07/15/2019
Time: 09:47 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi. I found this large spider after a heavy rain on north side of my house – early evening. It is at least 3 inches with legs. It is huge and rather scary. Some research leads me to believe it is a fishing spider and that it is not dangerous… I would love you to confirm that.  I saw it again on a darker evening  – I thought it was a small mouse it is so large… we live in a wooded area with a small brook.
How you want your letter signed:  Dianne

Fishing Spider

Dear Dianne,
You are correct.  This is a harmless Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, most likely the Northern Fishing Spider.

Letter 21 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject:  Big ass spider
Geographic location of the bug:  Statenisland NY 10312
Date: 11/06/2019
Time: 07:56 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What is this this big a×× spider…. it jumps
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks Elizabeth

Fishing Spider

Dear Elizabeth,
This is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes.  Though it is large and frightening, Fishing Spiders are not aggressive towards humans and the bite is not considered dangerous.

Letter 22 – Fishing Spider

 

Subject:  Spider
Geographic location of the bug:  Dawsonville, Georgia
Date: 06/18/2021
Time: 01:36 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What type of spider is this
How you want your letter signed:  Amy

Fishing Spider

Dear Amy,
This is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, most likely a White Banded Fishing Spider, Dolomedes albineusFishing Spiders get their common name because most species are associated with water and they are able to dive beneath the surface to escape predators as well as to hunt for fish, tadpoles and aquatic insects.

Authors

  • Daniel Marlos

    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.

9 thoughts on “What Do Fishing Spiders Eat: A Friendly Guide to Their Diet”

    • Hi Kim,
      We have no problem with allowing images from our website to be used for nonprofit educational purposes, so you may use the images on this posting for your newsletter. We like to have requests like this as comments to our postings so that the originator of the image who holds the copyright will know about image use. We do include a disclaimer on our identification request form that allows us to post images and content on our site as well as authorized publications. Sometimes year later it is very difficult to contact the photographer directly, but in the interest of transparency, your request is now an official comment and you have our permission to use the image for the purpose stated. Thanks for your interest in What’s That Bug? and thank you for promoting an appreciation of the lower beasts in your local newsletter. If you want to use additional images now or in the future, please place a comment on the appropriate posting. Please credit What’s That Bug? as well as the photographer who only provided the name BIBEF.

      Reply
    • Hi Kim,
      We have no problem with allowing images from our website to be used for nonprofit educational purposes, so you may use the images on this posting for your newsletter. We like to have requests like this as comments to our postings so that the originator of the image who holds the copyright will know about image use. We do include a disclaimer on our identification request form that allows us to post images and content on our site as well as authorized publications. Sometimes year later it is very difficult to contact the photographer directly, but in the interest of transparency, your request is now an official comment and you have our permission to use the image for the purpose stated. Thanks for your interest in What’s That Bug? and thank you for promoting an appreciation of the lower beasts in your local newsletter. If you want to use additional images now or in the future, please place a comment on the appropriate posting. Please credit What’s That Bug? as well as the photographer who only provided the name BIBEF.

      Reply
  1. August 8th. 2014
    Hi, I live in Summerville SC. A friend of mine has this spider up in a corner of her front Porch behind a lighting fixture. We live by a creek that is just a little over 100 yards. from her front door. There are no fish. The other closest body of water is at least three miles from us. Neither one of us go fishing. How is it possible that this spider found it’s way home to her house?! Lol… We don’t want to kill it. But would like to move it to another location preferably near water, back in it’s own habitat. As it gives her the willies to even think of walking out her front door. What would be the best way to remove it? Thank you looking forward to your reply. Sandy Madama

    Reply
    • They are commonly found near water, and your creek at 100 yards away is much closer than water sources for most folks. We don’t have advice for an arachnophobe as catching the spider in a glass would require getting very close. This is not a harmful or dangerous spider, and we would encourage your friend to overcome the fear as having a harmless predator so close will help keep other undesirable pests in check.

      Reply
  2. 100% D. Tenebrosus. Dark Fishing spider. We currently have 2 females, one is rather large, both carrying egg sacs. The large female we named Cali was rescued. She was trapped I’m another spider Web halfway up our house.

    Reply
  3. I’ve had a tree frog live under a pot on my railing for years. This early summer I checked under the pot, there was an adult tree frog and baby. I often would check and the would only see the baby. September came, when I looked under the pot there was a Dark Fishing Spider. No frog again. Every day Dark Fishing Spider. Recently, there seemed to be some remains. Not sure if eggs hatched or remains of the mate that the female eats after mating. Had a hard time believeing a spider would eat a frog, but now I think it’s a possibility

    Reply

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