Stomach contents and vertebrae from neonate and juvenile blacktip sharks Carcharhinus limbatus (n= 334) were examined to describe their diet, feeding patterns and growth within the Timbalier–Terrebone Bay complex, LA, U.S.A. In the study area, both neonate and juvenile C. limbatus feed primarily on gulf menhaden Brevoortia patronus. However, based on the index of relative importance (IRI), gulf menhaden constituted a larger portion of the diet of neonates (84·05 %IRI) than for juveniles (47·91 %IRI). An increase in the index of relative fullness between the afternoon and dusk time intervals and a large decrease in the percentage of empty stomachs between the night and early morning time intervals suggested that these fish exhibited a diel feeding pattern with crepuscular periods being the times of highest feeding activity. A higher percentage of empty stomachs (neonates 68% and juveniles 39%) and a significantly lower growth rate (age 0+ year C. limbatus, 0·62 mm day−1; age 1+ year fish, 0·89 mm day−1) could indicate that neonate C. limbatus are less efficient predators than older conspecifics.