fishing spiders

(Dolomedes spp.)

fishing spider (Dolomedes sp.)
Photo by Alissa Hawkins

Dolomedes is a large species of nursery web spiders known as fishing spiders, raft spiders, dock spiders or wharf spiders. There are more than 100 currently recognized species worldwide, 8 species in North America north of Mexico. Four species have been recorded in Minnesota.

Fishing spiders have a worldwide distribution, occurring on every continent except Antarctica. They are usually found near permanent bodies of water, or on floating vegetation in a body of water. Some are found in grassy meadows. One, dark fishing spider, wanders well away from water. One, white-banded fishing spider, lives in trees. The remainder are semiaquatic, spending part of their time in or on water.


Some fishing spiders sit quietly at the edge of a lake or pond or on floating vegetation. They rest their front three pairs of legs on the water surface to detect ripples or vibrations of prey. Others stalk prey on land. They eat mostly aquatic insects but also small fish. None hunt from webs, but all make nursery webs for their young.

All fishing spiders are covered with water repelling (hydrophobic) hairs. They are able to run across the surface of the water and even to “climb” under the surface to subdue prey. When they submerge, air is trapped on the underside of their abdomen, and they are able to breath underwater.


Fishing spiders are large and robust. Females are to 1 (15 to 25 mm) in length and have a legspan of 2 to 3½ (50 to 90 mm). The body is covered in a variety of hairs, including a dense cover of short, velvety, hydrophobic hairs. The upper side of the front part of the body (carapace) is longer than wide, moderately high, and has a distinct thoracic groove. There are eight eyes in two rows of four. The front (anterior) row of eyes is straight or slightly curved forward and is much narrower than the rear (posterior) row. The posterior row is strongly curved forward. The posterior eyes are larger than the anterior eyes. The basal segment of the jaws (chelicerae) is robust. The rear margin of the fang groove has four teeth, the front margin has three teeth. The legs are spiny. The last leg segment (tarsus) has 3 claws at the end, but these are not visible without magnification.


Distribution Map



24, 29, 30, 82.

  Class Arachnida (arachnids)  


Araneae (spiders)  


Araneomorphae (typical spiders)  
  Infraorder Entelegynae (entelegyne spiders)  


Lycosoidea (wolf spiders and allies)  


Pisauridae (nursery web spiders)  

Subordinate Taxa


banded fishing spider (Dolomedes vittatus)

dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus)

fishing spider (Dolomedes striatus)

New Mexico fishing spider (Dolomedes gertschi)

Okefenokee fishing spider (Dolomedes okefinokensis)

six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton)

striped fishing spider (Dolomedes scriptus)

white-banded fishing spider (Dolomedes albineus)






Common Names


dock spiders

fishing spiders

raft spiders

wharf spiders











The hard, upper (dorsal), shell-like covering (exoskeleton) of the body or at least the thorax of many arthropods and of turtles and tortoises. On crustaceans, it covers the cephalothorax. On spiders, the top of the cephalothorax made from a series of fused sclerites.



The pair of stout mouthparts, corresponding to jaws, in arachnids and other arthropods in the subphylum Chelicerata.



On insects, the last two to five subdivisions of the leg, attached to the tibia; the foot. On spiders, the last segment of the leg. Plural: tarsi.



Visitor Photos

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Alissa Hawkins


dock spider on the dock …

  fishing spider (Dolomedes sp.)  



… and one near the shop back door.

  fishing spider (Dolomedes sp.)  





Sean McCann



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  This Terrifying Spider Hunts Fish Underwater
Smithsonian Channel

May 26, 2017

If the prospect of a spider that catches fish wasn't scary enough, the fishing spider is disturbingly well-adapted to its task. This includes walking on water, as well as breathing underneath it as it stalks its prey.

From the Series: Crazy Monster: Spiders

  Fishing Spider (Dolomedes) Keeps Me Company
Everyday Fishkeeping

Apr 22, 2018


Here's a Fishing Spider (Dolomedes) which are pretty common around here. I don't know why I get them in my shed and bilco door area.

  Fishing Spider Dolomedes Species
Extrovert Invert

Mar 15, 2019

I found this fishing spider today... Dolomedes species... I think it's either the dark fishing spider or maybe the 6 spot fishing spider. Either way, I'm going to get it set up in a better enclosure this weekend... #spiders #arachnids #arachnophobia




Visitor Sightings

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Be sure to include a location.
  Alissa Hawkins

Location: Saint Paul Park, MN

dock spider on the dock …

fishing spider (Dolomedes sp.)  
  Alissa Hawkins

Location: Saint Paul Park, MN

… and one near the shop back door.

fishing spider (Dolomedes sp.)  






Created: 4/18/2022

Last Updated:

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