A Cape Breton man who fell through a hole in the ice while fishing is crediting his friend for saving his life.

The two friends are safe and warm again and happy to be able to have a coffee together after an ice-fishing ordeal last week that could have turned out much differently.

“When I stepped to the right of me, there was a big hole,” said Tim Parsons. “Someone cut a big hole in the ice and I went down probably to my shoulders in the water.”

It all happened on a frozen lake in the rural community of Orangedale, N.S., and there was no one else around.

The two men say the hole had been left unmarked by someone else who had been fishing there.

From the freezing cold water, Parsons hollered to his friend Joe Skinner for help.

“I would have never gotten out of the hole myself, never,” Parsons said. “I would have been gone.”

“It would have been the two of us gone, because I wasn't coming home without him," said Skinner.

Skinner had been in the ice tent changing out of wet footwear when he heard his friend call out.

He ran to the rescue with only one sock on.

After pulling Parsons out of the hole he knew he had to get him back to the truck for warmth -- quite a walk away -- with the temperature well below zero.

“It took about 15 minutes to get from the hole to the truck, and he was starting to slow down, right,” said Skinner. “He was starting to go the other way.”

Police say it is an offence under the Criminal Code to make an opening in the ice, without marking it -- or guarding it in some way -- to prevent others from falling in.

If someone were to die as a result, the offender could be charged with manslaughter.

“DFO said, 'You're pretty lucky to be here to tell us the story,’” Parsons said. “And I said, ‘Well, that's why I’m telling yas. To try and get the word out there to other fishermen.’”

And their message to others on the ice is simple.

“If you cut a hole, mark it,” Parsons said.

It’s a warning they feel lucky to be able to pass along after such a close call.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald.