Over recent decades, sustained economic growth in Indonesia has lifted many millions of Indonesians out of poverty. But despite these developments, 28 per cent of the population still live below the official poverty line and many more remain vulnerable to falling into poverty. Coastal and fishing communities represent some of the poorer populations across Indonesia, their livelihoods increasingly threatened by deleterious environmental impacts and overfishing. This paper draws on an analysis of household surveys from two Sama Bajo fishing settlements in coastal Southeast Sulawesi. A predominantly maritime language community, Sama Bajo livelihoods are shaped by seasonal patterns of fishing and marine based harvesting and trading. Using a modified poverty survey instrument, the paper explores comparative patterns of poverty and prosperity in these two communities with a focus on livelihood dynamics, seasonality effects, and the enduring patron-client relationships that sustain their market-oriented way of life. Key findings highlight the vulnerability of female headed households given the highly gendered access to fishing success, and the significance of relational co-dependencies between patron-client networks that sustain the current patterns of fishing livelihoods. The paper highlights the need for more focussed livelihood research among vulnerable populations in Indonesia and smallholder fishing communities in particular.