"I was informed that possession or transport of these "game" fish was illegal without a license from the state. I then contacted NC wildlife resources Commission over phone and was told very sternly that it would be highly illegal even if these "game" fish were obtained from reputable breeders. "
That differs dramatically from what I was told years ago. It is certainly illegal to release any fish, game or otherwise, into public waters of the state. But it's legal, as I understand, to keep alive game fish caught on hook & line, and non-game fish caught by hook & line, traps, or nets, following all fishing license regs of course. You cannot sell them, but you can keep them for personal use (food, aquarium, or self-contained pond with no outlet to a stream). I've been leading native fish field trips for RAS and other clubs for many years, and this is what I was told by WRC staff years ago (most of whom have retired now). Have things changed in recent years?