Dolomedes – Fishing Spider

As the name suggests, the fishing spider is a semi-aquatic genus of spiders that are found all over the world. Various species of Dolomedes can be found in every US state.

Dolomedes are a genus of the Nursery Web Spider family. They are large hunter spiders that usually find their prey around water. They will place their legs on the water surface and feel any movement that is caused by insects or even small fish.

When the Fishing Spider lays eggs, it wraps them in a sac and carries it underneath them. Before they hatch, it will tend to attach it to something and protect it.

Description of the Fishing Spider

While there are several species of the Dolomedes spider in the United States, the most common species are Dolomedes tenebrosus, Dolomedes triton, and Dolomedes vittatus.

Dolomedes tenebrosus

D. tenebrosus has a brown and black patchy pattern over the entire spider that mixes in well with the banded legs of the same colors.  One of the smaller markings, which usually helps me recognize this spider, is the black mask around the eyes.  If you see the brown and black pattern and the mask around the eyes, you likely have a Fishing Spider.

Dolomedes tenebrosus fishing spider
Fishing Spider – Dolomedes tenebrosus
Photography by: William Wiley – Ypsilanti, Michigan

Dolomedes triton

D. triton Is basically all brown or black with a white stripe running the length of both body parts on each side. Slightly visible in the picture (sometimes not very visible on the spider) are two rows of white dots just to the inside of the stripes on the abdomen. There are six dark spots on the underneath side of the cephalothorax for which it gets its common name of Six Spotted Fishing Spider.

six-spotted fishing spider
A black Dolomedes triton spider found by Beth in Johns Island, South Carolina
Dolomedes triton
A brown Fishing Spider – Dolomedes triton
Photography by: Lauren Arthur – Brimley, Michigan

Dolomedes vittatus

D. vittatus can be medium brown with white trim running down its side, or almost black with no distinguishable trim line. They will have the white dots on the abdomen and in the center of the cephalothorax will be two dark triangular marks side by side. This spider can look very similar to D. scriptus males.

fishing spider dolomedes vittatus
Fishing Spider – Dolomedes vittatus
Photography by: Tiffany Mello – Louisville, Kentucky

Dolomedes albineus – White-banded fishing spider

D. albineus usually has white-brown legs, a mostly white cephalothorax and brown and black markings on the abdomen that can have a greenish hue. Its markings are very similar to that of D. tenebrosus, but mostly, the overall body color is somewhat lighter.

Dolomedes albineus white-banded fishing spider
A white-banded fishing spider found by Jade. Location: Northeast of Memphis, Tennessee

Size of the Fishing Spider

The Fishing Spider is one of the largest spiders in the United States, as the females of some species can grow up to 4” (102 mm), including the legs.

Dolomedes tenebrosus fishing spider in Georgia
This picture submitted by Scott from Byron, Georgia shows the size of the Dolomedes tenebrosus fishing spider compared to a shoe.

Web

The Fishing Spider spins a web to protect its eggs. She will carry the egg sac underneath her until they are ready to hatch, and then she will spin a web to attach the sac to a leaf or some wood or some other object. Once the egg sac is attached to something, she will stand guard over them. They do not spin webs to catch prey, as they are hunters and will wander around looking for their meal.

Bites

Dolomedes are not usually aggressive spiders, except when they are protecting their eggs or young. If you are bitten by a fishing spider, it is not considered to be dangerous. At its worse, you might have some localized swelling and pain that will heal on its own.

Dolomedes tenebrosus
Fishing Spider – Dolomedes tenebrosus
Photography by: Garrett Arens – West Olive, Michigan

Dolomedes Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Infraorder: Araneomorphae
  • Family: Pisauridae
  • Genus: Dolomedes

Common names

All common names of Dolomedes are in reference to its semi-aquatic behavior. They are: fishing spider, dock spider, wharf spider, raft spider.

Distribution of the fishing spider in the USA

Dolomedes - Fishing Spider range map

Various species of the fishing spider can be found in every US state – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Fishing spider images submitted by readers

  • A six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) found by David
  • A six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) large brown spider with yellow stripes found in NE Louisiana by Clint
  • A white-banded fishing spider (Dolomedes albineus) found by Nancy
  • Black- Brown Fishing Spider Tim Michigan
  • Dark Black Fishing Spider MNmama Minnesota
  • Dark fishing spider by Barbra from Bauxite, Arkansas
  • Dark fishing spider size submitted by Jim from Maryland
  • Dead Fishing Spider found in the Road Susan Virginia
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus dark fishing spider found by Richard
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus fishing spider eye pattern front closeup by Cynthia found in Illinois
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus found by Aaron
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus found by Amber
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus found by Rachel
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus found in Philadelphia Pennsylvania by Kimberly
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus size comparison with hand by Rene found in Texas
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus spotted by Betty in White Mountains of NH
  • Dolomedes vittatus by Greg Foster found in Columbia Missouri
  • Dolomedes vittatus fishing spider closeup with egg sac found by Shelley in Indiana
  • Fishing Spider found in the water Derek Virginia
  • Fishing Spider GK Alabama
  • Fishing Spider in woodpile Karen Ohio
  • Fishing Spider Richard Michigan
  • Fishing Spider Stephanie Winconsin
  • Medium Sized Fishing Spider John North Carolina
  • Sally found this dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus)in Northern Indiana
  • six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) black spider with white stripes in Alaska
  • Six-spotted Fishing Spider Dolomedes triton spotted by Alexander in Springs Run in the Ocala National Forest in Florida
  • Six-Spotted Fishing Spider with Egg sac found by Bill in Alaska
  • The exoskeleton of a six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton)found by Nell
  • White Bandned Fishing Spider Ashley North Carolina
  • Fishing Spider Sheila Wisconsin
  • White Bandned Fishing Spider Kevin Texas
  • White-banded fishing spider (Dolomedes albineus) found by Kim
Dolomedes – Fishing Spider

32 thoughts on “Dolomedes – Fishing Spider

  1. Hi,
    We are located in Northern Indiana and found this spider in one of our outbuildings. Is it a Fishing spider, type of Wolf Spider, or something else?
    Thank you!

  2. The patterned, gray color is unlike any picture of a spider. It is similar to the wolf or fishing spider but the color is all wron

  3. Picture #1 of 5 attached

    I came across this spider 2 weeks ago (May 26) on the concrete floor of my basement. Did not find any webs. Must have been surviving on the crickets that find their way into my basement.

    Spider looks brown with dark brown/black markings on the abdomen and thorax. Also have brown and black bands on the legs, which are hairy. Spider is quite big 2 – 3 inches (including the tips of the legs) and has a plump abdomen. Seems to possess a large set of black fangs.

  4. Picture #2 of 5 attached

    I came across this spider 2 weeks ago (May 26) on the concrete floor of my basement. Did not find any webs. Must have been surviving on the crickets that find their way into my basement.

    Spider looks brown with dark brown/black markings on the abdomen and thorax. Also have brown and black bands on the legs, which are hairy. Spider is quite big 2 – 3 inches (including the tips of the legs) and has a plump abdomen. Seems to possess a large set of black fangs.

  5. Picture #3 of 5 attached

    I came across this spider 2 weeks ago (May 26) on the concrete floor of my basement. Did not find any webs. Must have been surviving on the crickets that find their way into my basement.

    Spider looks brown with dark brown/black markings on the abdomen and thorax. Also have brown and black bands on the legs, which are hairy. Spider is quite big 2 – 3 inches (including the tips of the legs) and has a plump abdomen. Seems to possess a large set of black fangs.

  6. Picture #4 of 5 attached

    I came across this spider 2 weeks ago (May 26) on the concrete floor of my basement. Did not find any webs. Must have been surviving on the crickets that find their way into my basement.

    Spider looks brown with dark brown/black markings on the abdomen and thorax. Also have brown and black bands on the legs, which are hairy. Spider is quite big 2 – 3 inches (including the tips of the legs) and has a plump abdomen. Seems to possess a large set of black fangs.

  7. Picture #5 of 5 attached

    I came across this spider 2 weeks ago (May 26) on the concrete floor of my basement. Did not find any webs. Must have been surviving on the crickets that find their way into my basement.

    Spider looks brown with dark brown/black markings on the abdomen and thorax. Also have brown and black bands on the legs, which are hairy. Spider is quite big 2 – 3 inches (including the tips of the legs) and has a plump abdomen. Seems to possess a large set of black fangs.

  8. Hello there,

    Found this beauty in my shed. Looks to me like a fishing spider and would like it confirmed. I’m located in Iowa.

    Thank you!

  9. Could you please identify this for me? He/she is hanging out on my blueberry bushes. I’m from MN. Thank you !

  10. I found this spider on my door frame. We live in Comanche, OK. . It’s about 3 1/2” total in length. The grey and black banded legs are striking but the body with the large white “mask” like marking is a mystery to me. What is it?

  11. Photo #1 of 2 – This spider was in my Ohio kitchen. I knocked it off a door jamb into a box and took it outside (probably one of the bravest things I have ever done). The body was easily 2-inches long and hand-sized with legs fully extended. I’m thinking it’s a fishing spider?

    1. Hi Jamie, yes, this is definitely a dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus). Great that you saved her by taking her outside.

  12. Photo #2 of 2 – This spider was in my Ohio kitchen. I knocked it off a door jamb into a box and took it outside (probably one of the bravest things I have ever done). The body was easily 2-inches long and hand-sized with legs fully extended. I’m thinking it’s a fishing spider?

  13. Found on a tree within a creek in northwest FL. Is it D. tenebrosus or a different member of the dolemedes genus?

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