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NEW FAIRFIELD – The countdown to summer has begun and for many area residents, that means it’s time to enjoy Candlewood Lake. Whether it’s boating, fishing, playing water sports or simply laying on a beach, Candlewood Lake is the place to be for New Fairfield and Sherman residents.

Boaters on Candlewood Lake’s waters must follow all state and local boating regulations. To get a safe boating certificate, visit the Candlewood Lake Authority website. Boats must be under 26 feet in length unless they’ve been grandfathered in. The speed limit is 45 miles per hour during the day and 25 miles per hour at night. While fishing season has already begun, Memorial Day officially kicks off the season each year, according to Mark Howarth, director of education and outreach at the Candlewood Lake authority.

Fishing in Connecticut waters requires a valid Connecticut fishing license. Some of the more common types of fish at Candlewood include bass, trout, perch, white catfish, walleye, bullheads and carp. For those interested in water sports, there’s a plethora of opportunities to take advantage of on Candlewood Lake such as canoeing, wakeboarding, tubing, kayaking and paddleboarding.

One sport that’s gaining in popularity every year is stand up paddleboard (SUP). SUP involves standing up on an oversized surfboard with one blade. “You have to keep your balance on the board. Your feet are parallel on the board,” said Kristin Hart, owner of Candlewood Stand Up Paddleboard. “Stand Up Paddleboarding is the fastest growing water sport in the world. When I started Candlewood SUP six years ago, no one knew what paddleboarding was. Now, most people know what stand up paddleboarding is and most have tried it also,” said Hart, who teaches SUP on Candlewood Lake.

To many people, the mere mention of the word “Candlewood” doesn’t bring up thoughts of doing any kind of activity at all — it simply means relaxing on the beach. Each of the town parks surrounding Candlewood Lake has its own beach. These parks include the New Fairfield town park, Brookfield’s Cadigan park, Danbury’s Candlewood park, the Lynn Deming park in New Milford and the Sherman town park.

The New Fairfield town beach will open on Memorial day weekend, and then officially opens for the summer on June 21. The beach is open 7 days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., through Labor day. For New Fairfield residents, a summer pass is $85 and a day pass is $5. New Fairfield resident Emily Cunningham has been going to the town beach for over a decade.

“When my kids [who are now 9 and 10] were little, we went to the lake almost every day. I would meet my friend from high school there and all the kids would be happily entertained playing in the sand and the water for hours. The kids can usually find someone to play with even if we hadn’t planned on meeting anyone there,” she said. One summer, Cunningham took a SUP yoga class on the lake. “It was very relaxing to be on the beach after it had closed and have a great view of the lake,” she said.

Cunningham also went paddleboarding on the lake. “This was a great way to get a different view of the lake. I was surprised how far you can go on the paddleboard. It was great exercise and a lot of fun.”

Want to volunteer to get Candlewood Lake ready for the summer? The Candlewood Lake Authority is looking for volunteers for its annual clean up day, which is May 20, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Boat captains and clean up crew are needed. Online registration is required to participate. “We have been doing a lake clean-up for over 15 years and we usually get close to a few hundred volunteers each year,” Howarth said.

According to Howarth, the clean up involves taking away trash which includes everything from garbage that’s been dropped or blown in, to parts of docks that have broken up such as flotation boards. “You name it, they’ve probably found it,” he said. “They usually fill at least one of the big 30-yard dumpsters to the top.”

Boat captains ferry the clean-up crews to different areas on the lake. We do the whole lake. We try and hit all the undeveloped areas of the lake,” he added. By around noon, everyone heads to the New Fairfield town park for a cookout, where they eat food donated by area restaurants. To participate in the Candlewood Lake spring clean-up, register at http://candlewoodlakeauthority.org. For questions or more information about Candlewood Lake, contact Mark Howarth at 860-354-6928.

By Sandra Diamond Fox