Fishing Spiders

Last updated: January 4, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© iStock.com/Jordon Sharp

Fishing spiders have hydrophobic hair on their skin that allows them to survive on water

Fishing Spiders Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Arachnida
Order
Araneae
Family
Pisauridae
Genus
Dolomedes

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Fishing Spiders Conservation Status

Fishing Spiders Locations

Fishing Spiders Locations

Fishing Spiders Facts

Prey
Insects, frogs, small fish
Name Of Young
spiderlings
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Fishing spiders have hydrophobic hair on their skin that allows them to survive on water
Most Distinctive Feature
Hair all over bodies
Other Name(s)
raft spider
Litter Size
1000-1200
Habitat
Near bodies of water
Predators
bats, frogs, large spiders, arthopods, birds
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Solitary
Nesting Location
Near bodies of water

Fishing Spiders Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Black
  • Dark Brown
Skin Type
Exoskeleton
Lifespan
2 to 3 years
Venomous
Yes

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Fishing spiders are part of the genus Dolomedes and are found near water sources such as ponds, lakes, and streams. They get their name from their hunting behavior; they sit on the edge of a body of water and wait for prey to come close enough to snatch it up with their long, powerful legs. Fishing spiders are excellent swimmers and have even been known to dive underwater in pursuit of prey.

5 Incredible Fishing Spider Facts

  • Fishing spiders are members of the Pisauridae family and are also known as raft spiders, wharf spiders, or dock spiders.
  • They get their name from their habit of hunting prey near water bodies – they can even walk on water!
  • Fishing spiders can be very large, with some species reaching up to 4 inches in leg span.
  • These spiders can be found all over the world in both temperate and tropical climates.
  • Fishing spiders are venomous, but their bites do not harm humans.

Fishing Spider Scientific Name

Scientifically known as Dolomedes, fishing spiders are members of the Pisauridae family, which can be found worldwide. The fishing spider is sometimes known by other names, such as the raft spider, the dock spider, the wharf spider, and the water spider, and it hunts its prey close to or in water sources. Their scientific name, Dolomedes, is greek and translates to “deceitful.” Their family name, Pisauridae, translates to “swift at sea.”

Fishing Spider Appearance

The fishing spider is sometimes confused with the wolf spider due to their similarities in appearance. However, a fishing spider is distinguished by its larger size and horizontal rows of eyes. The fishing spider can appear brown but ranges from black to light brown and has bands of colors or markings across its body.

They have 8 long, extended legs that can range between 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Male fishing spiders are much smaller than the females. Male fishing spiders’ bodies are only around a quarter inch in diameter, and females are around 1 inch in diameter. Male fishing spiders can also weigh up to 14 times less than females. Fishing spiders have 8 eyes, with 4 on each side of their head. As they spend a lot of time in and around water, their bodies are also waterproof and covered in fur.

Fishing spider has markings across its body
The fishing spider ranges in color from black to light brown and has bands of colors or markings across its body.

©Jukka Jantunen/Shutterstock.com

Fishing Spider Evolution

Fishing spiders are a type of spider that has evolved to be able to live and hunt near water. They have developed several adaptations that allow them to do this, such as specialized hairs on their bodies that help them sense vibrations in the water.

While there isn’t much information on the evolution of fishing spiders, they are believed to have evolved from land-dwelling spiders, who began moving into aquatic habitats a few million years ago. Over time, they developed the adaptations mentioned above, which allowed them to better survive and thrive in these environments. Today, there are over 100 different species of fishing spiders found all over the world!

Fishing spider can sense vibrations in the water
Fishing spiders have evolved developing adaptations such as specialized hairs on their bodies that help them sense vibrations in the water.

©iStock.com/Andrew Waugh

Fishing Spider Behavior

Fishing spiders are known for their ability to walk on water, and they use this skill to hunt their prey and sense vibrations through the water. These spiders differ from other spiders in that they do not construct webs to catch their prey. Instead, they will sit and wait at the edge of a body of water for an unsuspecting insect to come by, using the water and the vibrations they can feel on it as a web of sorts. When one does, the spider will quickly dart out and grab it with its powerful legs.

Fishing spiders are also excellent swimmers and can even dive underwater to catch their prey. They have particular adaptations that allow them to stay submerged for long periods and float on top of the water’s surface. The fishing spider is known for being one of the few types of spiders that can survive being submerged in water for long periods. It can breathe trapped air through delicate pores in its exoskeleton.

Another interesting behavior of the fishing spider is that it sometimes uses leaves or other bits of floating vegetation as a raft. This raft helps the spider float on the water’s surface and extend its hunting range.

Fishing spiders have powerful legs to catch prey
The fishing spider will sit and wait at the water’s edge and will quickly grab its prey with its powerful legs.

©Jason Patrick Ross/Shutterstock.com

Fishing Spider Habitat

Fishing spiders are found in various habitats, including wetlands, woodlands, and even near urban areas. They are often found near water sources, such as ponds and streams. They can be found worldwide and live in various climates, although they are more common in Asia, North America, and Europe. Fishing spiders are also known to build their webs near water sources to protect their eggs. They can usually be found hiding under rocks or logs near water when they’re not hunting or swimming.

Fishing Spider Diet

Fishing spiders are opportunistic hunters and will take whatever prey is available. Fishing spiders are predators that hunt by waiting for prey to come close enough to be grabbed. They will also actively search for prey, using their long legs to walk across the surface of ponds and streams.

What Eats The Fishing Spider?

Fishing spiders are typically hunted by larger animals, like birds or snakes. Some arthropod species, such as centipedes and scorpions, may also prey on the fishing spider. Other predators of the fishing spider can include bats, large frogs, and fish.

What Does The Fishing Spider Eat?

Fishing spiders are predators that hunt their prey in or near water. They eat anything they can catch, including insects, fish, frogs, and even occasionally small mammals.

Fishing Spider Predators and Threats

One of the main predators of fishing spiders is the bird known as the kingfisher. Kingfishers are small to medium-sized birds with large heads, long bills, and short legs that are known for hunting fish. They are excellent hunters and can spot a fishing spider from a distance as it sits on a leaf or twig near water. When they see one, they will swoop down and snatch it up in their beak before it has a chance to escape. Other predators of fishing spiders include bats, snakes, frogs, fish, and other spiders. However, kingfishers are these eight-legged hunters’ most common and feared predators.

Kingfishers are the fishing spider's main predator.
Kingfishers are the fishing spider’s main predator.

©Martin Mecnarowski/Shutterstock.com

Fishing Spider Reproduction

Fishing spiders typically reproduce once a year, in the late summer or early fall. The males will spin a web and then vibrate it to attract females. If a female is interested, she will approach the male, and they will mate. The male fishing spider is much smaller than the female. When fishing spiders mate, the male deposits his sperm into the female’s reproductive system. Researchers have discovered that after depositing the sperm, the males generally die due to swelling of their genitals. 

The female will typically lay over 1,000 eggs at one time. The eggs are laid in an egg sack which the female spider carries around by attaching to her body until a few days before the eggs hatch. Then the female will build a nursery using her webbing to keep the eggs safe before they hatch. After the eggs have hatched, the spiderlings will climb onto her back. Once they have hatched, the spiderlings will stay with their mother for only a few days before heading out on their own.

Fishing Spider Babies

Once mating has occurred, the female will lay her eggs in a silken cocoon and attach them to a plant or other object near water. She will then guard her eggs until they hatch, at which point she will help her young climb onto her back so they can be safely carried. Baby fishing spiders are called spiderlings.

The spiderlings will climb onto their mother’s back and hitch a ride until they are big enough to venture out independently. Hundreds of baby fishing spiders will ride on their mother’s back in a cluster.

Once they leave their mother’s side, they immediately start hunting for food. Fishing spiders are known for their excellent hunting skills, even as adolescents. They use their keen sense of touch and taste to locate prey, then pounce on it with lightning speed. Their venomous bite is strong enough to kill small prey like insects and even frogs. Baby fishing spiders are just as skilled at hunting as their adult counterparts. However, they tend to hunt smaller prey due to their size.

Fishing spider protecting her nest
The female fishing spider will lay her eggs in a silken cocoon and attach them to a plant or other object near water.

©Michael A. Damanski/Shutterstock.com

Fishing Spider Lifespan

Fishing spiders are known to have a relatively long life span for spiders, living up to 2-3 years in the wild. In comparison, most common spider species only live around one year. However, they face many threats during their lifetime, including predators, disease, and environmental changes. These threats include, but are not limited to:

  1. Predators
  2. Infections and viruses
  3. Parasites
  4. Environmental changes
  5. Pollution to food sources

Fishing Spider Population

The population of fishing spiders varies depending on the location and can be difficult to calculate. In North America, there are an estimated 10 million fishing spiders. However, the population in Europe is unknown. There is not much official population information available on fishing spiders. Still, we do know that they are found in a variety of habitats and that their population is doing well overall. Fishing spiders are an essential part of the ecosystem and keep insect populations under control. Fishing spiders are not considered endangered or threatened at this time.

Similar Animals

  • Wolf Spider: Fishing spiders are very often confused with wolf spiders.
  • Pond Skater: These insects also live in or around water and can glide across the surface.
  • Water Beetle: These beetles live in waters all around the world.
View all 83 animals that start with F

About the Author

I have been a freelance writer for the past 2 years. I have a huge love of animals and I love building my knowledge of animals through research. I love sea creatures in particular, my favorite being the octopus because of their intelligence, and I mean, come on, what's not to love! I have a rescue boxer named Dante who is the friendliest pup a man could ask for.

Fishing Spiders FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are fishing spiders carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?

The fishing spider is considered a carnivore as it mainly eats other animals.

Are fishing spiders monogamous?

Male fishing spiders can be considered monogamous as they will only have one chance to breed before dying.

Which continents are fishing spiders found in?

Fishing spiders are found worldwide, mainly in Asia, North America, and Europe.

What is the average lifespan of a fishing spider?

The average lifespan of a fishing spider is 2-3 years.

Can fishing spiders hurt you?

Fishing spiders are generally quite shy around humans, so they won’t attack. However, if they do bite you, the bite can be compared to a bee sting. So, while they do hurt, they are not dangerous to humans.

Do fishing spiders eat fish?

The majority of the diet of a fishing spider is insects, but they have been known to eat smaller fish species, as these spiders are opportunistic feeders.

Do fishing spiders spin webs?

Yes, they do. While fishing spiders do not spin webs to catch prey like other spiders, they will use them to build a cocoon for their young or even as an anchor to avoid getting swept away by the currents in the water.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Australian Geopgraphic, Available here: https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/blogs/creatura-blog/2018/09/fishing-spiders-natures-creepiest-success-story/
  2. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolomedes
  3. PennState Extension, Available here: https://extension.psu.edu/fishing-spider

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