Fishing Spider

2012 September 8

When we we were back at the pond in the woods on April 22, 2012, Sandy spotted several of these skating over the surface of the water. Not only were they quick, but they could even briefly zip under water to escape if they were sufficiently alarmed. I finally caught one, though, and got it into a jar[1] to photograph.

It was also able to jump surprising distances. I tried getting pictures of it outside of the jar, and it kept jumping on my camera, running up my arm, jumping in my lap, and trying to escape down my leg. After a couple of iterations of this, I got it back in the jar until it calmed down, and then did the best I could to photograph it there.

It was a pretty good-sized spider, with a body about a centimeter long, and legs long enough to go most of the way around my little finger. It resembles a wolf spider both in body shape and ability to run, but when we look at its face we see that it doesn’t quite have the wolf spider eyes.

If it was a wolf spider, those two top eyes would be much bigger than the rest. So it’s not a wolf spider. It’s actually a Six-Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton, which is potentially one of the largest spiders that we have locally (this one probably isn’t fully-grown yet). It is the same species as the spider in the picture that our friend Michelle sent us a few years ago.

And right about now, some of you may be counting the white spots on its abdomen, and thinking, “Hey, what gives? This spider clearly has at least 10 spots, maybe 12!, so where do they get off calling it 6-spotted?” Yeah, I thought that was odd, too. It turns out that those aren’t the six spots that are referred to by the common name (and those white spots aren’t a reliable diagnostic feature anyway – the pictures of this species on BugGuide range from no white spots at all, to a dozen). If we were to look at the underside (which I wasn’t able to do), there should be six black spots on its chest.

There was another species of spider that was also skating around on the surface of the little pond, but I only had the one jar and I figured that if I put them together, somebody was likely to get eaten. So we probably have at least two kinds of fishing spiders around. I should go back and try to acquire more of them, and see just how many kinds there are.

Anyway, fishing spiders are aptly named. They catch their prey out of the water, and once they get big enough they actually are known to catch and eat small fish.

[1] The jar had previously been used to rear woolly-bears up to moths, and the little hairs visible in some of these pictures are woolly-bear hairs.

2 Responses
  1. JennyW permalink
    September 9, 2012

    I saw a fishing spider this summer on the banks of…Spider Lake near Traverse City! True story! Based on the pictures at I’m guessing it was of the genus Tenebrosus.

  2. Katbird permalink
    September 10, 2012

    This is one of my very favorite spiders! Thank you for the photos.

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