Fishing spiders

While wading through a shallow stream in a dense forest, my sixth sense told me… ‘you have company in the water!’ I looked around. My eyes skimmed the surface of the water but failed to spot anything. This happened a couple of times before I finally managed to ignore the creepy feeling. However, the thought kept nagging me. I was not sure as to what I should be looking for in the water. I was in Meghalaya, looking for butterflies, particularly those secretive ones that are known to frequent waterside vegetation.

The day progressed; I went along the meandering stream wading through water very carefully and gently. At one point, as the ripples progressed away from me, I noticed something small, move on the surface of the water. I lost sight as it disappeared among the floating debris that had accumulated. Out of curiosity, I reached the spot where the movement was last seen and scanned the area. Nothing. Was I hallucinating? Or day dreaming?

On the banks of the stream, further ahead, my attention was drawn to some mud-puddling butterflies. As I continued to wade through the stream slowly, I again spotted something skim the surface of the water and reach some debris. Only, this time it was much closer to me. My gaze was fixed on the spot even as I slowly got closer.

There it was… a spider – the last thing on my mind while looking for the lurking creature. As my camera was in all readiness for the butterflies, I quickly took some pictures of the spider before it decided to skim the water one more time. I followed it and got a good number of shots. With an overall brown colour and with pale blue and white markings, the spider was a pretty creature indeed.

A Fishing Spider (Fam. Pisauridae) sitting amid debris in a stream.

A Fishing Spider (Fam. Pisauridae) sitting amid debris in a stream.

Later in the evening, back at the camp when reviewing the images I started wondering what a spider was doing on water. Only then did it dawn on me, that I might have actually seen and photographed a spider that has been on my bucket list for a very long time – a Fishing Spider!

The spider as seen in the pictures lives close to water and has the habit of catching small fish, hence the name Fishing Spider. These spiders belong to the Family Pisauridae, also popularly known as the Nursery Web Spider. It also could be feeding on other smaller creatures living on or near water.

As I stared at the pictures, I realised that the spider, like the pond skaters, uses surface tension of the water to stay afloat. To further help the situation, the spider has water repelling hair!

Notice how the spider stays afloat. The fact that the surface tension is not broken is evident from the dimples on the water surface at points where the spider's body comes in contact with the water!

Notice how the spider stays afloat. The fact that the surface tension is not broken is evident from the dimples on the water surface at points where the spider’s body comes in contact with the water!

I was kicking myself. Wish I had gone better prepared and recognized the spider. Perhaps, I could have spent time watching the spider; maybe I would have witnessed the spider catch a fish. During the rest of the trip, whenever I was near water I kept a watch for the fishing spider, without luck.

I have spent a number of hours looking for spiders closer home and it is strange that the fishing spider, though found here, has eluded me till date.

Another Fishing Spider from Hampi, Karnataka – carrying its egg case.

Another Fishing Spider from Hampi, Karnataka – carrying its egg case.

Fishing Spider from Agumbe.

Fishing Spider from Agumbe.

A very attractive fishing spider on the water surface from Amboli, Maharashtra.

A very attractive fishing spider on the water surface from Amboli, Maharashtra.

The next time you are in the vicinity of a water body, check the vegetation and the water’s edge carefully… you may just get lucky. Perhaps, the fishing spider may even treat you to some action!

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