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 size compared to a coin
Dolomedes Tenebrosus
Picture taken by: Laurel – Green Oaks Twp, Mi
Dolomedes – Fishing Spider

77 thoughts on “Dolomedes – Fishing Spider

  1. Rather than hunting on land or by waiting in a web, these spiders hunt on the water surface itself, preying on mayflies, other aquatic insects, and even small fish .

    1. Hello Aaron,
      Yes, this is a fishing spider. Unfortunately, I am unable to determine the exact species based on this picture alone. In what State was the picture taken?

  2. This spider was found October 11th living on the inside of the lid of our outdoor latrine at our hunting site just west of Nestoria in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

  3. Thank you for the informative web site! I’d appreciate help identifying this spider. I’m thinking wolf but markings don’t match pictures I’ve seen and it doesn’t appear hairy (though am not sure about the hair). Found in Fairfax, Virginia. Body is approximately the size of a quarter.

  4. this spider is a large spider and on water. in a small stream in the mountains of Virginia.

  5. I hadn’t been able to do better than “some kind of Dolomedes fishing spider, probably female” when I took these pictures in August 2014, but your site makes it seem pretty clear that it was a Dolomedes vittatus. It was one of the largest spiders I have encountered outdoors, about the size of my hand. The low board walkway it is sitting runs through a marshy area in Columbia, Missouri, called Bear Creek, maybe a foot or so above the creek itself.

    1. Hello Greg, thanks for uploading these two great shots! Yes, the spider in the pictures is most certainly Dolomedes vittatus. They can reach quite an incredible size.

  6. I live in Wareham Ma. Seen this type of spider twice now, both times in my shower of basement apt.

  7. Please help identify…thinking it may be some type of fishing spider. We are located in central Wisconsin

    1. Hello Stephanie, thanks for uploading this great picture. This is most likely a Dolomedes tenebrosus fishing spider. It appears to be gravid.

  8. I found two of these on the side of my house (East side) in N. IL. We are a few blocks from a creek but no other natural water.One was quite a bit thicker bodied than the other and there was a shed near one as well. They were near the eves-I balanced on a ladder for their photo shoot. I would love to know what they are.

    1. Hello Cynthia, wow! Thanks for uploading this incredible shot! This is definitely a fishing spider. Most likely, it is a Dolomedes tenebrosus.

  9. This spider was photographed on a Elderhostel Canoe Trip on Alexander Springs Run in the Ocala National Forest.

  10. Any idea which kind of fishing spider this could be? Quite a bit larger than a quarter if you spread her legs out. Found in Minnesota.

    1. Hi Nicole, thanks for uploading this great shot! This looks like a female Dolomedes tenebrosus – its carrying its egg sac.

  11. Found this little fellow hiding underneath my steps. We are located in Virginia in the central part in Fluvana county. The spider did not appear to have hairs but it did not appear to be completely smooth either. He looked to be about 3 inches long from the front of his legs to the back with about an inch long body

  12. Gone for a couple days and upon return found this in my bathroom sink. Picture taken in south eastern KY. Legs and all about 3 inches. Guessing fishing spider.

    1. Hello Jeff, thanks for uploading this shot! Yes, this is indeed a fishing spider. Most likely Dolomedes tenebrosus.

  13. This spider was on my outside wall 2 nights in a row. Only saw it at night. Last sighting it was sticking out of a vent like it was going inside as the sun came up. It stays still for very long periods of time. I estimate it’s size, (based on spider size compared to the bricks):
    body length: ~1.15″
    w legs: ~2.9″
    Tim
    Livonia, MI

  14. I took this picture yesterday in the White Mountains of NH. This beautiful creature was stretched out on a boulder. I’d say she was about 3.5-4 inches across. Not sure what species, though…

  15. I found this in Alma Center, Wisconsin. It’s about an inch in length from tip of rear legs to tip of front legs. It seems to be kind of a charcoal gray with many cream colored bands. It was outside on the deck.

  16. Raleigh NC, Found on top of my shoe as I picked it up in the house to put it on! Easily one of the largest spiders I’ve ever encountered, recently relocated down here and am guessing a Wolf spider but seems otherwise different? It quickly found itself outside after the one picture was taken in my garage.

    1. Hello John, thanks for getting in touch! This is a dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus). Fishing spiders are, as wolf spiders, not medically significant.

  17. The spider is in its web, at the rear right corner of my screened back porch, in Fort Valley, Virginia, just today. It seems to be uniformly black, doesn’t have any hairs, and I think its legs look a little wavy. I’ve never seen a spider that had four legs and hind legs stretched out before and behind it. It seems to be able to take down very large prey Insects

    1. Hello Mama Cat, thanks for getting in touch! This looks like a fishin spider (Dolomedes sp.): https://usaspiders.com/dolomedes-fishing-spider/
      They do not spin webs to catch prey but to protect their egg sacs. So there is probably and egg sac in that web. It’s hard to see it on the picture. If you are bothered by the spider, you can remove it and the egg sac and release it outside. Fishing spiders are not medically significant.

      1. Thanks, USAspiders! I can see the egg sac right below it. Good to know what it is – we seem to get a new unknown spider or bug every year.

  18. Discovered this fellow sunning on a rock next to a stream. It looks like a large funnel weaver of some sort, though no web was evident. Body was about 1.7 cm long, with a leg span of about 5 cm. Its cephalothorax was lined with a white or pale yellow corona, and its abdomen had four pairs of white dots running down it.

    1. Hello David, thanks for getting in touch! This is a six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton). They are part of the nursery web spider family (Pisauridae) and not medically significant. Especially six-spotted fishing spiders are often found very close to bodies of water and have the ability to walk on water. You can read more about fishing spiders here: https://usaspiders.com/dolomedes-fishing-spider/

  19. I found this interesting spider inside sitting on a shoe in a shoe rack, he allowed me to relocate him onto a bucket for better lighting for a photo shoot. I really like his beard and have never seen this type of spider before

    1. Hello Nancy, this is a white-banded fishing spider (Dolomedes albineus). It’s not medically significant.

  20. Found this guy hanging off a lily pad at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Can’t find him in any identification sites but he is so cool looking and wanted to know what he is.

    1. Hello Nell, thanks for getting in touch! This is not a spider itself, but the exoskeleton of a spider. Spiders shed their “skin” several times during their lifetime. It’s hard to tell what this used to be but something tells me that this is the exoskeleton of a six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton): https://usaspiders.com/dolomedes-fishing-spider/

  21. What kind of spider is this? I’m hearing conflicting information regarding wolf vs fishing. This was found in an outhouse near the boundary waters in MN.

    1. Hello there, thanks for getting in touch. This is definitely a fishing spider. A good way to tell them apart is by looking at their legs. Fishing spiders often stand with their two front leg pairs together while wolf spiders usually spread out all 8 legs evenly.

  22. We spotted this spider while camping at Deer Creek Park in Ohio. It was in a tree stump in the creek that runs off of the dam. To us, it appears to have a human face.

    1. Never seen before in Connecticut. Smallish-mediumsize. Multi shades of brown with small back striped legs. The two front legs are darker and really long, kind of bulbous in the middle then second half of leg is lighter and striped. The body has about 4 spikes on top and near the front kind of reddish/brown. I thought it was either a kind of spiky orb spider, cat faced spider, or a garden? The legs are very strange!

  23. This guy is on my porch. Located in SC. Some pics suggest fishing spider but not perfect match. Does anyone know for sure what it is?

    1. Hello Penelopie, thanks for getting in touch. This is definitely some type of nursery web spider of the family Pisauridae. It is a fishing spider (Dolomedes sp.), as I can exclude the genera Pisaurina and Tinus. It’s hard to tell what species it is – it might be Dolomedes albineus, which comes in a range of different patterns, but it could also be a light Dolomedes tenebrosus or D. scriptus.

  24. Found two under a bridge near the water in Indiana. One is on an egg sac. They are quite large and dark in color. Believe them to be dolomedes vittatus?

  25. Excellent website! Love it!
    Here is a pic of what I think is a Dolomedes triton. She has built a web platform over the skimmer flap on our goldfish pond. It looks like maybe she has a egg sac on her back, although all the information I can find says they carry the sac beneath them. Looking through a magnifying glass, her back looked like a fur ball with seeds entwined in it. Whatever she is, she’s a beaut and I’m glad she picked my pond to hang around.

    1. Hello Donna, thanks for your comment and for uploading this great shot! The spider in the picture is a wolf spider, not a fishing spider. They can have a similar appearance and size. The little things on the spider’s back are tiny spiderlings which the mother carries around for some time. Wolf spiders are the only spider family that do this.

  26. This big boy was found in the track of my sliding door at my lake house in N. Michigan. He was very large like almost my hand including his legs. What a cool shield on his back! Thanks!

  27. I saw this spider in the Bristol Bay area of Alaska, near the Alagnak River; it was located on the ground in the tundra. I cannot tell if the white area is abdomen or an egg sack. Can you identify it?

  28. I found this big moma guarding her eggs under my covered patio. Isn’t she lovely? She is a good sized one, about 3 inches long. I just let her hang out as her babies hatch. She’s a beautiful spider. I named her Charlotte. I believe she is a grass spider. It’s a shame your website won’t let me upload the picture…smh…it’s only 1.39 MB…computers and smartphones hate me…😔

  29. Largest spider I’ve seen in Texas that wasn’t a tarantula. Has been in the same area for a few days, seemingly hunting at night.

  30. This lady was spotted soaking up rays on the beach, Oregon coast. Running amok on the sand, no web in sight, pretty far from any structure. Was pretty small, perhaps 1/2″ toe-to-toe. Although Dolomedes are often larger perhaps this one is young? It’s similar to D. tenebrosus, but lacks the black triangles behind the eyes, and while it has white spots on the abdomen they are not in tidy rows of three. What do you think?

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