Striped Fishing Spiders: How to Identify

Striped fishing spiders (Dolomedes scriptus) are often called “writing” signing spiders because of the marking on their backs.

Striped fishing spiders.
A Striped Fishing Spider is resting on a green leaf. Taylor Creek Park, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo credit: Paul Reeves Photography

Striped fishing spiders: Description.

The striped fishing spider is among the eight species in the genus Dolomedes that inhabit North America, north of Mexico. This semiaquatic creature can be found on or near water and does not construct webs for itself like other spiders typically do. Its appearance can vary from brown to tan, grayish hues – sometimes with stripes, but often without them.

Those with a bold white or tanned stripe running down either side of the body are pretty noticeable, and it’s no different for striped fishing spiders. An intricate pattern can be seen on their abdomens, with dark W-shaped marks separated by white “Ws” between them. Atop the carapace (head) lies a clean line that runs all along its center – making these creatures awe-inspiring to behold!

Striped fishing spiders: Habitat.

The striped fishing spider is commonly found near any water body, especially in fast-flowing streams. It typically rests on the stream’s edge with its feet spread across the surface. Its specially adapted hairy legs allow it to move swiftly over land and water – so much so that it can quickly traverse a creek bank or sprint among rocks at a gravel bar.

Striped fishing spiders are savvy predators, controlling many small aquatic animals and insects. Unfortunately for them, they are also easy prey to larger creatures such as fish, frogs, dragonfly nymphs, and birds – particularly their young ones. Thus these spiders must be ever-vigilant to survive!

Striped fishing spiders: Reproduction.

As a general guideline, spiders from temperate regions will hatch during the springtime and then spend the warm months engaging in activities such as eating, maturing, mating, and creating egg cases. Female spiders are often larger than males, with some even consuming their mates after reproducing. As long as the weather permits it, female arachnids continue laying eggs for an extended time.

As the weather turns colder in autumn, spiders’ metabolisms slow down, and they usually perish if it freezes. However, their egg cases usually survive until springtime, when their spiderlings emerge. A distinguishing feature of fishing spiders is that females hold onto their egg sacs with their chelicerae.

Further recommended reading about spiders.

Spider pages: Learn how to identify and avoid these spiders.

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Black Spiders: How to identify them.

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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

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