Dark Fishing Spider: How to Identify.

The Dark Fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) is in the Family Pisauridae (nursery and fishing spiders) and the order Araneae, but it isn’t always found near water.

The dark fishing spider’s larger leg span (sometimes as much as 3.5 inches) and coloration often make it mistaken for a tarantula or a world spider. However, the bite of a dark fishing spider is not medically significant to humans.

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Dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus). Photo credit: Istockphoto.com/Rachel Fleming

Dark Fishing spider: Description.

The dark fishing spider is typically brown with three visible black W-shaped marks, each ending in a lighter brown mark and strips on its legs. Females’ bodies are .6 to .9 inches long, and their leg span ranges from 2 to 3.5 inches.

Brown and black rings band on the third segment of the legs, and reddish-brown and black bands are on the fifth.

Unlike most spiders, dark fishing spiders hold their legs straight out. Dark fishing spiders have eight eyes arranged in two rows of four each, but the wolf spiders are often mistaken for their set in three rows, with the largest eyes in the middle row.

The Dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) can be told apart from the Striped fishing spider (Dolomites scriptus) by the Striped fishing spiders’ unbroken white borders around their W-shaped markings. 

Dark Fishing spiders: Habitat.

Dark fishing spiders occur from southern Florida to southern Canada and the Dakota east to Texas and Florida. Although they are in the Dolomedes family, this species does not spend much time around water. Instead, the dark fishing spider prefers to hunt and shelter in vegetation, shrubs, and rocks near the water.

Dark fishing spiders actively hunt at night and spend the day sheltering in dark cracks and corners, in stumps, or under logs.

When dark fishing spiders are near the water, they can pursue prey by running on top of the surface of the water and even take temporary refuge from a threat by diving under it.

What do Dark fishing spiders eat?

Dark fishing spiders do not build webs or burrows. Instead, they stalk their prey using vibrations transmitted through their legs, hairs, and their excellent vision (especially compared to that of a web-building spider)

The diet of the dark fishing spiders consists of insects, other spiders, slugs, smaller arthropods, and occasionally tiny fish. They are classified as opportunistic, generalist feeders.

To kill their prey, dark fishing spiders chase them down, pounce, and bite.

Fishing spider With egg sac
Fishing spider with egg sac.

Dark fishing spider: Reproduction and mating.

Dark fishing spiders are nursery-web spiders. Females will spend the mating season nearer to water than at any other time of the year. Like all spider mating events, male fishing spiders must make a hasty retreat post-coitus to escape being consumed by the females.

Dark fishing spider egg sacs are nearly 1/2 inch in diameter and contain 1,000 to 1,500 eggs. THe female dark fisher spider will carry her eggs sac until the spiderlings are ready to hatch. At this point, she will attach the egg sac to vegetation, build a nursery web around it, and wait protectively nearby.

Dark fishing spider fangs
Dark fishing spider fangs.

Are bites from dark fishing spiders dangerous?

The dark fishing spider is large, and the female will ferociously protect her egg sac and young. Indeed, this spider has a reputation for biting when harassed or threatened.

Fortunately, the bite of the dark fishing spider, while painful and causing redness and swelling, is not medically significant to non-allergic humans.

The bite of a dark fisher spider feels like a wasp sting.

How to prevent Dark fishing spiders.

To prevent dark fishing spiders from entering inside or residing outdoors near your home, get rid of any permanent water sources near your home. This should reduce the number and types of prey the dark fishing spider is seeking.

Outside, trim or remove any vegetation around your home to eliminate places for the spider to seek daytime shelter.

Try an area denying spider preventer.

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Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr. is a former Marine Sergeant and the author of several books, including two on night hunting coyotes and red and gray fox. He has written several hundred articles on predator hunting for ThePredatorHunter.com.

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