Pontoosuc Lake

Last Updated: 4/2016
        While there is local angling interest in the spring stocked trout and the heavily fished largemouth bass population, this lake’s biggest claim to fame is its ability to consistently produce large tiger muskies. Ice fishermen come from all over the state for a chance to catch one of these rare trophies, and while few are successful, the chance at a new state record is hard to resist. Ice anglers avoid the problems of heavy boat traffic that open water fishermen must contend with, but the ice gets crowded on weekends, so plan to arrive early. Like the tigers, good pike are also a possibility throughout the year, but don’t expect much in the way of large pickerel or bass. We strongly urge anglers to take home some yellow perch, white perch, bluegills, yellow bullheads and black crappie. These fish are presently underutilized, and some culling could improve growth rates. Mid summer fishing is difficult due to the heavy recreational traffic, so plan to fish early or late in the day, and avoid weekends if possible. (1993)
       The bottom is composed of muck and gravel, with the gravel predominating in the south end. Aquatic vegetation is abundant, extending to depths of 10 feet or more from most of the shoreline, and it is particularly thick in the northern coves. Be under no illusions, this lake is urban/suburban.  The shoreline is densely developed and the lake supports heavy recreational use throughout the year.  This lake is best paddled in early summer of fall because of the heavy use by motorboats and personal crafts that travel at high speeds.  The Lake is split nearly in half between the town of Lanesboro (North) and the city Pittsfield (South).

Boat Ramp and up East Side
A double surfaced ramp owned by the Public Access Board is where you should launch.  A dam to your right is the outlet for the lake and leads into the Housatonic River. Travel north along the East shore of the lake. At about 0.4 miles you will come across a former YMCA Boat house.  As of 2013 it has reopened as a club marina and the building is being restored tastefully.  For the next mile you will travel alongside route 7 as it travels northward.  Passing a few houses and commercial buildings and even a Donut shop is on the east shore.  The views looking west are one of the more beautiful mountain views in the Berkshires.

North Shore
                At about 1.5 to 2.2 miles you will enter a cove.  A trailer park is located on the east side and a small stream enters to the north. It is possible to pass under the causeway of Bull Hill Road, it’s a tight squeeze, (or portage over) and explore Town Brook.  A half hour should be enough time to have fun on a nice day. The rest of the northern reaches are filled with houses to mile 2.2.

Northwest Pond
         Enter the second cove in the northwest portion of the lake.  At about 3.0 miles another set of five culverts go under a causeway on Narragansett Avenue.  These culverts have more room and can be navigated with a kayak or canoe. Another half hour of exploration is possible depending on the level of the lake and the amount of weeds. The shoreline is over 1.2 miles long.

West Side
         Follow the lake south as it passes numerous houses with small beaches and boat docks.  To your left (east) will be the smaller of two private islands.  Both have NO TRESPASSING signs.  For bass fisherman, the docks along the shore are good places to catch Bass.

South Side to Boat Ramp
         Follow the South shore as it turns west back towards Pontoosuc Park and the boat ramp.    


  • Skill Level:            Class 1 - Flat water
  • Estimated Time:    2 hour
  • Total Distance:      4.8 miles (NW Bay 1.2 miles)
  • USGS Map:    Pittsfield West, MA and Cheshire, MA (7.5’x15’)
  • Nearest Address:  50 Hancock Rd Pittsfield, MA 01201    
  • Boat Launch: Car top launch near beach.
  • Position:   42-29.10 N 73-14.83 W    
  • Physical Features:
    • Area:                  480 acres
    • Max depth:         35 feet
    • Average Depth:  14 feet
    • Transparency:    11 feet
    • Terrain Type: Year round homes, City Park
Fish Population
  • Last survey 1982
  • 14 species – Yellow Perch, White Perch, Largemouth bass, Golden Shiner, Bluegill, White Sucker, Pumpkinseed, Rock Bass, Black Crappie, Chain Pickerel, Yellow Bullhead, Common Shiner, and stocked Rainbow and Brown Trout twice a year.    
Put In and Take Out: 14.2 miles
  • From US Route 90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) take exit 2.
  • At the end of the ramp turn right on to Housatonic Street.  You are on Route 20 West.
  • Follow Route 20 through town and toward Lenox and Pittsfield.
  • Route 20 and 7 will merge and continue north.
  • When Route 20 turns left (west) in Pittsfield, continue straight (north) on Route 7 through Pittsfield.
  • At 14.1 miles turn left at stop light onto Hancock Road. Pontoosuc Park and boat launch is immediately or right.

State Pond Map
The Boat Ramp
Friends of Lake Pontoosuc
        The Friends of Pontoosuc Lake is a volunteer organization dedicated to promoting the interests of Pontoosuc Lake.  The goals are to ensure high water quality in the lake, maintain high environmental standards in the watershed, hold nuisance aquatic vegetation in check, and ensure that the lake can be enjoyed by the citizens for a variety of uses and that facilities are provided to support these uses. (Lee Hauge, President 413 442-6691)
Friends of Lake Pontoosuc
Boat Ramp and Plenty of Parking
The Pontoosuc Maiden
         In the time before the European settlers began to creep west from their colonial villages on the eastern rim of Massachusetts, two brothers lived upon the shores, which looked out on the tiny valley that would one day be called Pittsfield. 
Pontoosuck, as it was then simply known, a "field for winter deer," and the lake to its north served as a good home for these brothers for many years. One bore a son, who he called Shoon-keek, and one a daughter, Moon-keek. 
       "These two grew up together, racing the trails of the virgin forests, swimming in the clear waters of the lake, or skimming its surface in birch-bark canoes," wrote local historian Haydn Mason, in the 1948 anthology Berkshires: The Purple Hills.
As they grew older, however, the beauty of the young maiden drew braves from surrounding areas. Suitors jealous of the inseparability of the Moon-keek and her brother complained, maligning the two to their fathers.
        Their fathers forbid them, as cousins, to settle together, and went to lengths to keep the two apart. But Moon-keek and Shoon-keek found many opportunities to evade watchful eyes in the ranging forests all around their lakeside settlement. 
It was on one such stealthy tryst that they decided that their happiness demanded a more permanent solution, and they determined to run away, find another tribe and settle down together.
Their planning, however, was observed in secret by one of the maiden's jealous suitors, a brave named Nockawondo. On the night they set for their escape, Nockawondo (Obiway, in some versions) followed as they prepared to meet out on the lake's tiny island.
Moon-keek reached the island first, and could hear the paddling of       Shoon-keek's canoe on the water in the deathly still of the night... but they were not alone. Consumed with hatred, Nockawondo let an arrow fly across the dark lake. Shoon-keek was struck, and fell from his canoe with a splash. 
        Moon-keek leapt back into her canoe.  "Shoon-keek! Shoon-keek! she cried, paddling furiously. When she found the place where he had gone under, she dived in after, her empty canoe drifting on alongside his.  She never resurfaced.
In somber remembrance, their people named the lake for the lost youngsters, the lovers who would not be parted.
        There is some evidence that the lake was indeed referred to as Moonkeek-Shoonkeek by the Mahican natives first encountered by settlers. A reference to Pontoosuc Lake in an 1862 item in the Berkshire County Eagle suggests the native moniker was a traditional one that hearkened back a considerable span of time by that time. 
The Legend
Excellent Public Toilets
Beautiful Public Park with Picnic Tables