Wolf and Fishing Spiders

Description of wolf and fishing spiders

Wolf spiders and fishing spiders are the largest and among the most common of the spiders found in Iowa. Both are outdoor species that do not usually live indoors. They are, however, an occasional "accidental invader" that will wander into houses and buildings by mistake.

Wolf spiders and fishing spiders have good vision and actively hunt and pursue prey during the day. They do not capture their food in a web, as do other common spiders with poorer eyesight. 

Female wolf spider carrying young
Female wolf spider carrying young


Fisher spider
Fishing spider

Life cycle of wolf and fishing spiders

Wolf spiders are common in almost all terrestrial habitats but are usually found near shrubs or tall grass where a plentiful insect supply is available. They run over the ground or on plants searching for prey and pounce upon the victims with vigor and power. Wolf spider mothers carry their large egg sacs around with them. When the young spiderlings hatch, they climb onto their mother's back and ride around until partially grown.

Fishing spiders are amphibious and are typically found in moist areas, especially along the edges of streams and lakes. They can skate across the surface of the water and even dive beneath the surface to feed on small fish, tadpoles, and aquatic insects.  However, the majority of their food is large terrestrial insects found on vegetation at the water's edge.

Management of wolf and fishing spiders

Wolf spiders and fishing spiders are not poisonous, though as with all spiders, bites may cause reactions in certain individuals. The presence of these spiders inside a building is usually a case of accidental invasion and is particularly common in the fall of the year. Spiders that can be successfully trapped in a large jar can be taken back outside and released. Otherwise, the only necessary control is to swat or spray the invaders with a household aerosol and discard.

For what it is worth, the Golden Guide, Spiders and Their Kin says that wolf spiders make nice pets. Water must be provided to wolf spiders kept in captivity.

Do you live in Iowa and have an insect you would like identified?

The Iowa State University Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic will identify your insect, provide information on what it eats, its life cycle, and if it is a pest, the best ways to manage them.  Please see our website for current forms, fees, and instructions on preserving and mailing insects.   

Contact information for each state's diagnostic laboratory for U.S. residents.  If you live outside of Iowa, please do not submit a sample without contacting the Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic.

Last reviewed:
May 2021

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on September 13, 2016. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.