Smelt Bay is located on the southern end of Cortes Island, the park is named for the fish that spawn ashore by the tens of thousands. Smelt are fish that spawn under the moonlight, they roll in the waves and cover the beaches.
We used to have a run that would come in on a beach in Campbell River, a friend and I used to head down with special garbage cans that we had punched holes all through. We would wade out in hip waders pulling the cans through the water. Gathering the fish into other buckets.
The next day, we would sell them to the commercial day trawlers, they would freeze them and use them as bait. We were around 10 yrs old, we would make a fair bit of money doing this, too bad the fish only came once a year. The females can lay up to 60,000 eggs on the shore in late September and early October, they hatch in about 3 weeks.
These small sardine-like fish attract many other types of marine life to the area, including salmon, seals, sea lions, seabirds, and otters. Birds like gulls, eagles, cormorants, herons, and oystercatchers can also be seen here.
This beautiful park has a beautiful pebble beach at the south end of Smelt Bay around the shoreline to Sutil Point. This point is right at the southern tip of the island, quite beautiful here, always loved day picnics here, catch the first boat to the island, hang out at the park then head home on the last boat.
Smelt Bay is the only provincial campground on remote Cortes Island, there are 22 sights here. It’s a nice, well-maintained campground with plenty to do while you are here.